For anyone still sporting a shaggy summer hairdo – including those who have been putting off a trip to the hairdresser to clean up their lockdown locks – CHEO is offering an opportunity to sharpen their style while raising money for the hospital’s life-saving cancer research.
Hair Donation Ottawa, presented by National Bank, is an annual charitable event that sees members of the community volunteer to cut, shave or trim their hair in support of our local children’s hospital. Participants fundraise in the period leading up to their haircut and then donate their earnings – and hair – to create wigs for children dealing with hair loss from medical treatments.
Due to COVID-19, the event will be virtual this year. Participants are encouraged to film and upload a video of themselves cutting their own hair or visiting a local salon to share their good deed.
With so many workplaces still operating remotely, organizers are urging local businesses to take advantage of this unique opportunity to reconnect with employees and the community, says Lydia Blanchard, director of community engagement at the CHEO Foundation.
“This is a great way for corporations and businesses to engage in a workplace challenge after being separated for so long,” she says. “Whether it’s through interdepartmental fundraising challenges, or a competition between store locations, who wouldn’t want to come together with their colleagues to support local kids and possibly see their CEO shave their head for cancer?”
Cutting hair for a cause
Although there are certain specifications for hair that can be used to create a wig, everyone is invited to participate in the event.
Any hair that isn’t suitable for wigs is donated to Green Circle Salons, which uses hair to create hair booms that are used to help clean up oil spills in oceans, lakes and rivers.
“What is so great about this event, and what really attracted our team is that everyone can get involved,” says Brian Ballinger, branch manager at National Bank, which has partnered with CHEO numerous times over the years. “You can have super-long hair or be ‘follically challenged’ and still play a role in this great cause.”
To help foster a sense of togetherness at the first-ever virtual event, organizers have arranged for online performances by musicians and aerial artists throughout September, as participants share their own hair-cutting videos.
There are also new fundraising incentive prizes for participants including salon packages, an Ottawa Senators prize pack and WestJet airline tickets, as well as an online auction, which is presented by the Feely Group Real Estate Team. The auction is filled with over one hundred prizes including items such as gift baskets of hair and beauty products, restaurant gift cards, toys, electronics, and more.
While the fun extras of the event offer a great incentive for those thinking of participating, Ballinger says he’s motivated by knowing the impact CHEO has on children and families.
“The more you get to know the people around you in the community, the more you start to see the impact that CHEO has had on almost everyone,” he says. “The team engagement aspect is huge for us, but even more than that, seeing the lights come on for people when they realize how they have contributed to a family or child in need is really rewarding.”
Event: Hair Donation Ottawa
Day: September 1-30, 2020
For more information about hair donation and CHEO’s pediatric oncology programs, visit: www.hairdonationottawa.com.
Bringing hope to families
With an average of 75 Ottawa children receiving a cancer diagnosis every year, the money raised from Hair Donation Ottawa serves a vital role in our community. Cutting-edge research is conducted at the hospital every day with the goal of finding less-invasive treatments for children dealing with the disease.
For Ollie Biggs and his family, CHEO became a second home when he was diagnosed with a rare form of liver cancer not long after he was born.
“We knew that CHEO was one of the best places that we could be in Canada, but it was still a terrifying time for us,” says Ollie’s father, Luis Biggs. “The diagnosis was so rare that the doctors on our team consulted with other doctors globally to create the best possible chemo regimen for our newborn baby.”
Their son began treatment when he was just 28 days old and went through nearly four months of chemotherapy before doctors could remove the mass from his liver.
While it was an extremely emotional time for the family, Biggs says he can’t praise the CHEO team enough for supporting him and his wife, Krista. He urges anyone considering a donation to the hospital to think of families such as his.
“Because people donated to specialized research 20 years ago, our child is alive today,” he says, adding that Ollie – now five years old – is a rambunctious boy who enjoys playing with his three older siblings like any other child.
“Knowing that people out there are working to save our child’s life gave us hope,” he adds. “While you may not be able to cure children’s cancer yourself, you can always support those who can.”