A Little Bit Of
In the beginning…. The ‘St Valentine’s Day Hair Massacre’
On Sept 6, 2000, the MacDonald family learned that their youngest member, Kali, would be fighting for her life while they watched helplessly. Without suspicion, a healthy and vibrant two year old became victim to a disease that we all fear. Cancer can pose as the quiet lion, unassumingto its prey.
In 3 short days, their little person deteriorated rapidly as cancer ravaged her weak little body. Kali was the first child in North America to be placed in a new study that would measure the effects of a particularly aggressive treatment where young Leukemia patients would endure adult doses of chemotherapy. At one time leukemia was considered an unlikely form of cancer to treat. We have made progress, but we are still so far away. Imagine the reality of a 2 year old forced to swallow 42 pills a day, and poisonous therapies injected into veins, muscle tissue and spine every three weeks. This is the reality of cancer.
Cancer not only attacks the patient, it attacks their family. Kali’s diagnoses would begin a difficult life altering journey that would lead to the Hair Massacure. When life hands you lemons, you make lemonade. The family made pink lemon-aid, and invited a community to join them.
The St Valentine’s Day Hair Massacre was inspired by yet another bout of hair loss experienced by Kali, now 4 at the time and in month 30 of her daily chemotherapy treatment. Her parents felt helpless as they feared yet another attack to their daughter’s self-image. Hair loss in cancer patients is known to crush self-worth and confidence. Kali’s father Gordon initiated a plan to fundraise and honour Kali at the same time.
A most fitting act of support and empathy for a cancer patient is a head shave. The experience is life changing.
Gordon’s efforts manifested into a successful head shave held at his place of work (Canada Post Main Depot Edmonton) where 48 “Proud Victims” fell victim to the clippers. Recently released from treatment, an eager little Kali stood atop a bench with little fingers tightly wrapped around a set of clippers. Down below fell the tears and locks of hair of her parents. $37,000.00 was raised and 14 new rocking chairs were donated to the Pediatric Oncology unit at the Stollery.
In 2006, Gord applied for a Guinness world record attempt and the event was held at West Edmonton Mall. 298 ‘Proud Victims’ arrived, many already with Pink Hair (as newly introduced just prior to the 2005 event). 150 elementary students from little Gibbons school arrived this day raising over $34,000.00 for the cause.
Pink hair quickly became the signature trademark for ‘Hair Massacure’ (shortened in 2007), where schools from near and abroad eagerly connected with the cause raising unconceivable amounts in pledges ranging from 10,000-74,000.00 – with the highest demographic lying within the elementary schools.
As well in 2007, Kali Pink hair colour (donated in part by Manic Panic) was introduced for the convenience of home and school pinkings. Plush little Kali Bears gained popularity quickly – created by Kali and her mom and manufactured by Gund. These little bears were offered as incentives to reward all participants who raised over 500.00 in pledges. What surprised the MacDonald’s the most was the desire for participants to continue their collection of bears. An average of 50% of participants earn a Kali Bear in their fundraising.
Kali Bear Mascot was brought to life due to the popularity of these little bears. Big Kali Bear was first introduced to the crowds at Oil Kings and Edmonton Rush games (as both teams pinked and shaved in support of the event). It was determined then that the Bear would be a boy due to his naughty personality.
For a short spell, the family welcomed a pink horse named General, who attended the big shaves and select events, in tow with a very large Pink Standard Poodle named F.R.E.D. (Family Run Event Dog) who accompanied Tammy in most of her travels promoting the event. F.R.E.D. is now 11 and retired.
Over the years, the MacDonald family welcomed many cancer children and their families into their lives. The loss and struggle of each child only fueled their reason to continue, with Tammy at the helm. Many of these families became integral members of the cause, as the event provided happiness and healing in their lives. Hair Massacure became a way of life for the family, with equal amounts of struggle and blessings.
Today we see a well-orchestrated plan materialize across Alberta, thanks to over 400 volunteers (including 100 stylists) who all contribute their efforts in one of the largest head shave events in the world, shearing over 1000 heads in a single day. An average of 1,000,000 is collected annually in Alberta with hopes for more.
To date this grass roots event is entirely supported by the people, drawing every age and all walks of life into its circle. Schools and teams remain the largest contributors of this great event, with current and past partnerships with all of the Rona and Save On Foods stores across Alberta. They have all participated heavily in staff engagement, selling paper Kali Bear Icons, Kali Pink hair colour, and pink construction hats. Over the past 9 years, Totem / Rona has raised over 800,000 for the cause, with plans to reach 100,000 annually. The spread of the event was a direct result of a highly ambitious regional director Paul Hobbs, a man with great passion towards sick children and Hair Massacure. His torch is now passed onto an equally ambitious Connie Dahl, Director of Operations.
Our first Media Partners were CITV TV / Breakfast Television and CISN Country 103.9 (thanks to Chris Sheetz) who continues to support HM after 13 years as part of Corus Radio – the event media sponsor. For the entirety of the Hair Massacure, all media sources have taken special interest in Kali’s story, the MacDonald family and the event itself.
Most of the major stakeholders have remained with the event, the majority lie with 10 or more years of personal and or financial investment. The MacDonald family is very proud of the funding that has, and will continue to contribute to advancements in Pediatric cancer research, and hundreds of wishes for critically ill children in Alberta, offering hope and a reason to keep fighting. To date, Hair Massacure has raised over $12,000,000 for their recipient charities.
This year the MacDonald family is happy to partner once again with the Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada and to support Terry Fox Profyle, a Pediatric cancer research project. With the MacDonald family back at the helm of their event, they have plans to grow Hair Massacure to the national level with the support of the Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada, continuing to raise funding for Pediatric Cancer Research and Wishes for children with life threatening illnesses.
-Tammy MacDonald – Co-founder