From Where I Sit – Valentine’s Day Variation

It’s Valentine’s Day as I write this. Multi-course meals in darkened restaurant dining rooms, long-stemmed red roses, gold jewelry, and decadent chocolate are tradition. Some men will enter the potential minefield of buying their women lingerie. Experts say underestimate the size of panties and over-estimate the bra size. The theory being big boobs are better than a big ass. What a perverse and complicated mess this business of body image. But that’s another column.

I’m here to say some people choose a more altruistic way to spend Valentine’s Day. My daughter Hilary who works as a special events coordinator with the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation was one of over 800 people who had their heads shaved over the course of a 24-hour period.

Preliminary numbers show that the 5th annual Valentine’s Day Hair Massacre raised over $400,000 for the Stollery and the Children’s Make A Wish Foundation. Even nowthe donations continue rolling in. For Hilary, what started out as losing a bet with a radio personality turned into a mission. As a brunette, she needed to have her hair bleached before being dyed bright pink several weeks ago. It reminded me of the fake fur of plush toys.

The idea of pink hair is to raise awareness and help in the drive to collect pledges. Hilary felt the sideways looks and double takes from people. We judge and are judged by those aspects of our outward appearance within our control, such as tattoos, piercings, and unusual hair. It may not be right or fair, but it is reality whether we’re dead right or totally off base in our judgments. Hilary has been warned that viewer reaction to her newly baldhead will also be mixed. Is she a skinhead or a cancer survivor or some sort of punk?

So I was there at West Edmonton Mall to witness my baby girl’s act of courage. While it is only hair, it is an act of courage to consciously alter your appearance, even for charity. Most of us wouldn’t even consider it. She did me proud as usual with her maturity and grace. Onlookers likened her new look to Sinead O’Connor. Her dramatic eyes and nicely shaped head do indeed make her beautiful. Inside and out.

I had a chance to meet Tammy MacDonald, co-founder of the event and mother to Kali, an eight-year-old who’s battled cancer since the age of two and has lost her hair several times because of treatments. It’s awe-inspiring to meet people who turn the worst possible news into something so wonderfully generous. Toddlers, busloads of school kids, older adults, and a couple of Edmonton RUSH lacrosse players were among the shaved. Volunteer hairstylists, media people, set-up and teardown crews, and countless others — all worked to orchestrate the event. Donours generously opened their wallets.

Despite the bad news bombarding us daily, events such as this remind me of society’s intrinsic good. So whether you’re a cheque writer or a head shavee be proud of your involvement with these acts of goodness. The acts are a truly special Valentine’s Day from where I sit.