University of Calgary medical students set to roam halls with freshly shaved heads for annual fundraiser

The lights of the Health Sciences Centre at the University of Calgary will be gleaming off 14 freshly shaved heads this Friday after a group of medical students participate in an annual head shave fundraising event in support of the Kids Cancer Care Foundation of Alberta.

University of Calgary medical students have sponsored the event every year for the past decade in conjunction with a national fundraising initiative through the Canadian Federation of Medical Students.

Through the initiative from the Canadian Federation of Medical Students, all schools with medical programs across Canada raise money to support organizations that fund cancer research. However, the U of C is the only school in the country that has chosen to sacrifice its student’s hair in the name of fundraising. It has proven to be an effective strategy, as the group continually raises $10,000 to $20,000 each year.

“It’s a Calgary tradition to do the head shave,” says Regan Taylor, who has been involved in organizing the event since he began medical school in 2009. Year after year, medical students across the country talk about how much money was raised as part of the national event, most of which always comes from Calgary, Taylor says.

All the money raised from the event will go to support the Kids Cancer Care Foundation of Alberta.
Photo Courtesy of Kids Cancer Care
This year’s event will see 13 males and one female take their turns sitting nervously in a hairdresser’s chair outside of Libin Theatre on the U of C campus while they watch their hair get the chop. Each participant has been busy gathering pledges and together the group has managed to collect just over $13,000 for Kids Cancer Care.

The festivities kick off at 12:30 p.m. with a lunch put on by Spolumbo’s Fine Foods & Deli and a silent auction. Items up for grab include stays in luxurious hotels across the province and an Olli Jokinen jersey signed by Calgary Flames players. 98.5 Virgin Radio will be on hand to host the head shave, and downtown pub Local 522 will be hosting an after-party to celebrate all the freshly shaved heads.

Proceeds from the lunch, auction and after-party ticket sales will all be donated to Kids Cancer Care, in addition to the money raised by the head shave participants.

Brittany Beingessner, the sole female who will be shaving her head, says that it is about much more than just raising money. “I want people to ask me,” she says. “I want people to take notice and ask me why I did it, who it was for. It’s all about awareness.”

While she admits that she is nervous about the shave, Beingessner insists she will not wear a wig to cover up her bald head, as she says she feels it is important to bring attention to these causes and get people talking about what these organizations do.

This year, the funds from the head shave event will go to Kids Cancer Care, a charitable organization that supports both cancer research and families with children who are battling cancer.

The support that Kids Cancer Care brings to families is a huge part of the healing process, says Beingessner, who is currently in her first year of medical school.

“Being in med school, you see the other side of it. You see first-hand how families are affected.”The Kids Cancer Care Foundation of Alberta provides support to families facing the disease and provides funding to research initiatives.
Logo courtesy of Kids Cancer Care

The Kids Cancer Care website says approximately 1,500 children are diagnosed with cancer each year in Canada and around 10,000 children are currently battling the disease.

“Illness knows no social or economic boundaries,” Nelner says. “It is not discriminative and can hit anyone.”

This is the reason why Taylor says he continues to support the event year after year. “As medical students we are showing a lifelong dedication to better treatments and better research,” he explains. “Eventually, we will all be affected by it.”

After recently losing a close family friend to the disease, Beingessner says she was inspired to help make this year’s event really count. While she enjoys her last few days of getting to style her long brown hair in the mornings, she is excited for the impact that this event will have on the community.

“The reach that cancer has is significant,” Beingessner says. “It really affects everybody. Some people have good stories and others have not so good stories. My goal is to help make some more of the good ones.”

tbrown@cjournal.ca