Local fundraiser is a roaring success

Shaved Head Challenge brings in more than $80,000

By Caroline Arbour

photo: Shaved Head Challenge participantsSeptember 17 was shaping out to be a regular workday for Daniel Lemay, a pension fund manager who works at Xerox in the namesake building that towers above the Alexis Nihon shopping centre. Then, his colleagues returned from lunch at the food court with quite the surprise. “They informed me that Leucan was raising money and I think they chose me because they know I meet challenges head-on,” he explained. They had elected him to take part in the Shaved Head Challenge.

Not a half-hour later, Lemay was sitting on the event stage, wincing with dread as a hairstylist prepared to run a razor through his hair.   Once it was over and done with, the young man said he did not regret going through with the dare, even though he seemed shocked by his new look. “I feel that I did this for a good cause,” he said, adding he had once considered signing up for the shaving in Quebec City. “I didn’t have enough supporters at the time, but today it was a perfect situation.”

The Challenge attracted almost just as many spontaneous participants as people who had been thinking about going bald to benefit children with cancer for some time. Many shared that the disease had struck a friend or close relative. “A member of my girlfriend’s family is going through chemotherapy right now and I wanted to support her,” said Guillaume-Olivier Bouchard, a basketball player from Dawson College who was cheered on by fellow teammates and his coach.

Youth and women mobilized

Dozens of other athletes showed up on the red carpet put out to welcome the courageous and their entourage. Concordia University’s new assistant women’s basketball coach sacrificed her hair because her nephew was diagnosed with leukemia at age 6. But Sarah Gagné also did it because she feels it is “important set an example” for the players. The girls raised $1,330 and accompanied her to the event.

Leucan’s director for the Montreal-Laval region was impressed by how many students from neighboring schools got involved. “Entire sports teams from both Concordia University and Dawson College came out,” beamed Alexandra Jeanty, who wishes to recreate that wave of solidarity at all of the organization’s shaving sites. “To our children, who see that there is such a large community behind them, it can only be comforting.”

Hairstylists from Industria Salon shaved 48 people of almost all ages in three hours. Manager Jessica Michaud said what surprised her most about the Challenge was how many women took part. “Hair is very symbolic for hairstylists,” she said, “and for participants as well. It’s a grand gesture.”

A roaring success

Leucan reaped $81,968 in donations for that one day. NDG MNA and Minister of Immigration, Diversity, and Inclusiveness Kathleen Weil contributed $1,000 while the employees of the company that owns and manages Alexis Nihon collected $47,135 — almost double the objective Cominar REIT hoped they would reach.

photo: Cominar's Vice-president and COO Sylvain CossetteVice-president and COO Sylvain Cossette was nothing if not proud of what was accomplished. “Every little step we take together allows us to beat cancer, which affects too many children, “he said. “We thank all of the participants, including Cominar employees, the people who gave small and big amounts, as well as sponsors Canadian Tire, Industria Salon, Teavana, DeSerres, and Subway.”

Bald for the third time for the cause, Cossette stressed that participation is just as significant as the sum raised. “When we walk down the street later with our heads shaved, it’s neat to say that we’re spokespeople for Leucan.”

Read Part 1 — Hope and respite on a razor’s edge
Read Part 2 — Of cicadas and cancer
Read Part 3 — Giving to give

Images and video: Caroline Arbour

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