In 2002 little Kari MacDonald was nearing the end of three years of chemotherapy. She was a survivor. Her father, Gordon, was moved by her experience so much that he urged over 40 of his friends and coworkers at Canada Post to shave their heads to raise awareness of cancer in children. The event, the St. Valentine’s Day Hair Massacre, was held in 2003, and raised $37,000 for the Kids with Cancer Society.
Since then, the event has grown, and beyond their dreams. This year will be the tenth “Massacure,” with over 1700 people expected to shave, dye, or donate their hair to raise awareness and funds for multiple charities. The entire MacDonald family, Gordon, Tammy, and their four daughters, are the driving force behind it. Corporate sponsorships and public recognition have moved it from an event to a movement. It is listed in the Guinness record book for the most heads shaved under one roof in a 24 hour period at West Edmonton Mall. Each of the last two years it raised a whopping million dollars – an astonishing accomplishment.
This year’s Massacure will once again be held in the Ice Palace on February 3. One-of-a-kind heart Shaped Dilly bars, although not pink as in previous years, will be given to participants, offered by St. Albert’s Dairy Queen. In addition to the St. Albert Dairy Queen, the list of corporate sponsors is astounding. Yet despite corporate sponsorship, the heart of this movement, I believe, is beating within the chests of innocent little children who are still able to comprehend the essence of humanity. School involvement in this undertaking brings the opportunity for youth and children to gain self confidence, personal pride, and most importantly, practice altruism.
Life isn’t fair. Typically a child learns this lesson when they receive the short end of the stick and there is no explanation as to why. But there is another way for children to learn this lesson and it comes in events like Massacure. Those who are most productive and beneficial to our society are those who have chosen to live for something larger than themselves.
So when your eight year old approaches you and says they want to shave their head, do they really know what it means? Probably not. Are they prepared for the shock of waking up and regretting what they’ve done? Most definitely no. But should that stop you from letting them pursue this wild and daring feat? Wait a minute and think about it.
There are a number of reasons why kids shouldn’t be allowed to shave their head and most of those reasons are legitimate. It’s not a great idea for cut little Christine to show up to her sister’s wedding next month as the flower girl sporting an emerald gown with cropped pink hair. But if your reluctance to say yes is based solely on the potential discomfort or panic in the weeks and months that follow the head-shave or pinking, consider the following benefits.
Your child will never forget it. Our minds are mapped with signposts of significant events in our childhood. Sometimes, these signposts can be negative forces of trauma, surprise, or difficult circumstances. So what better way to solidify altruism in a child’s mind and heart than to allow a little bit of trauma in their life to be associated with an enormous act of kindness! What better way to imprint on a child’s life story than to allow for a shocking event to instil bravery and self-sacrifice?
If as part of your condition to participate, you require that your child do some research as to the effects of cancer on a person their age, they will be given the opportunity to see things from an empathetic perspective. Childhood development includes the ability to look beyond one’s own circumstance to recognize the plight of others. Your child will be thinking of someone else and this is something to celebrate.
Four years ago, Brett Arlinghaus, a grade six teacher at Neil M. Ross, had not heard much about Massacure until one of his students shaved her head. It inspired him, and he began a campaign in the school that grew over the next few years. Last year, Neil M. Ross won the School Initiative award, being the most successful school fundraiser for the entire Massacure initiative. They had 80 students involved in fundraising, with 50 of them cutting or shaving their hair.
When I asked Brett why a parent should allow their child to shave their head, he responded emphatically. “It can be such a short window when they want to do this bold move. It’s a teachable moment; a chance to foster the ability to empathize with others. Why say no to it?”
Do children really know what’s at stake when they ask to shave their head or dye it pink? Of course not. But neither do adults. And how many of you have ever jumped into something that you freaked out about after you’d passed the point of no return? The ability to adjust to a self-imposed crisis is beneficial. It creates perspective, self confidence, a feather in a child’s ball-cap, so to speak. Hair grows back on average about ½ inches per month. September school pictures is a good seven months away, so your son or daughter will have a good three-four inches on their noggin by the time the camera snaps.
And as Mr. Arlinhaus says, “Hair grows back. It grows back quick.”