They aimed for $5,000 but got more than double that while shaving about 40 heads, including those belonging to two long-time city councillors. Shave for the Brave at Gyro Park raised over $12,000 last week to help support families who have critically ill children.
Organized by 17-year old Pen High student Nathania Roy, the event saw participants shave their heads for pledge money to help fund travel expenses for local children whose families can not afford to bring them along when their siblings must travel for treatment. The event drew over 250 people to the park for raffle draws, a barbecue, music and, of course, to watch the trimmings.
“It really means a lot that the community and the families that we know, and everybody that is close to us, all pulled together to really make it a success,” said Roy.
The proceeds go to BC Children’s Hospital’s Balding for Dollars charity which runs several programs. Roy organized the event after living through her older brother Valere’s fight with cancer. She remembers the weeks she spent agonizing over her sibling’s fate, hundreds of miles away from him in the Okanagan, while the rest of the family was in Vancouver for his treatment.
“When he was first diagnosed they said that I wasn’t allowed to go there so they sent me to Green Bay Bible Camp in Kelowna,” she recalled. “It was my 11th birthday and I was sitting on the cabin floor by myself, crying and I didn’t know if my brother was alive or not. It was just the most awful thing.”
Since Valere’s cancer went into remission over six years ago, she has wanted to do something to help families. Roy said she was touched to see so many offer up their hair to the cause.
Amongst those who shaved for the brave were two men who, as a result of the trimming, might be able to get around town a little more freely: Penticton councillors John Vassilaki and Mike Pearce.
“Some of my best friends don’t even recognize me when they pass me on the sidewalk. I have to kick them in the hind so they will turn around and talk to me,” said Vassilaki.
In addition to his head being shaved, Vassilaki also offered up his trademark moustache to the razor after the charity hit the $7,500 bounty he had set for his facial hair.
Asked who looks better bald, him or Pearce, Vassilaki said, “Me, absolutely. Greek heads were made to look good with hair or without hair.”
Although Roy will be moving to England this fall to study psychology and social work, she said Shave for the Brave may well return to Penticton at this time next year.
“Two girls came up to me after and asked if they could make it an annual thing using the same name,” explained Roy. “I just can’t thank everybody enough. It literally means the world to me and I know that the families who benefited from the money will be thankful as well.”