The annual fundraising event that has raised more than $150,000 for children with cancer since its Whistler debut 10 years ago is back. Balding for Dollars is set to take over the GLC on Saturday (March 24) when a group of brave individuals who have been collecting pledges for B.C. Children's Hospital will have their heads shaved.
"It's really found its place in Whistler's philanthropic community," said Dave Clark, co-founder of Whistler Friends, the organization that puts on the event.
In the beginning, Clark's original idea was to enlist people to join him for a Balding for Dollars event in Squamish. His recruitment efforts caught the attention of Whistler Blackcomb bars manager Mike Varrin who convinced him instead to bring the event to Whistler and hold it at the GLC.
"We planned it during an après and it just so happened to coincide with the Hairfarmers (music performance)," said Clark. "Because that event was so successful we thought 'why change it?'"
On Saturday, true to tradition, the Hairfarmers will play a high-energy set at the GLC while the Blackcomb Barber Shoppe shears heads. The goal set by Whistler Friends for this year is to collect $15,000, which will grow the grand total raised by Whistlerites over the last decade to $168,000.
"Once I got really involved and we got the event going, I understood more about where this money goes and the quality of life that it gives some of these kids," Clark said. "These kids haven't even started their lives yet and they're dealing with these big people issues - kids should be able to be kids."
Rajan Das has offered his locks every year since Balding for Dollars first took place in Whistler. After hearing about the first fundraiser, he decided it was a good cause and got involved. With the support of family, friends and co-workers, he raised almost $400 that year.
"With the success that first year I decided to keep it going year after year," he said in an email.
Over the last decade, Das has raised a total of $6,700 in Balding for Dollars pledges. One year he had the chance to meet a parent of one of the children receiving cancer treatment at B.C. Children's Hospital.
"It was great to meet and talk to someone directly involved," Das said.
This year's Balding for Dollars is the first one for Al Paul, a Whistler resident of 20 years. While vacationing in Hawaii last year, Paul learned he had brain cancer and within 10 days of flying home underwent surgery to remove the tumour. After months of chemotherapy and radiation, Paul has been declared cancer-free.
"If you had what I dealt with 10 years ago, your odds of making it would have been way less than what's going on now," he said of the strides made in cancer treatment, made possible in part by fundraising efforts such as Balding for Dollars.
Over the course of Paul's treatments, friends and relatives in Whistler and Ontario rallied together to raise money for Paul and his family. His younger brother shaved his head in a show of support.
"It was something else," said Paul. "They got me through the winter."
Now a cancer survivor, Paul said he's newly inspired to put his own efforts into raising money for cancer research and programs. The patches of hair he lost from treatments have grown back and he's ready to go bald on Saturday. It's a cause he sees himself participating in again next year.
"I normally get my hair cut in the spring," said Paul. "It's time - I can hardly see where I'm going."
Visit whistlerbaldingfordollars.com for more info and to donate.