The Ice Palace at West Edmonton Mall was the scene on Friday for a buzz cut the likes of which is only seen once a year.
Hundreds lined up to have their pink heads shaved clean as part of the eighth annual St. Valentine's Day Hair Massacure. The participants were doing more than raising money to benefit the Stollery Children's Hospital and the Make-A-Wish Foundation. They were there to show kids with cancer that as chemotherapy takes their hair away, they have a large network of extended family and friends showing their support and solidarity with their own shorn skulls.
The 12-hour marathon in the middle of Canada's largest shopping centre featured an army of volunteer hairstylists and a long slate of entertainment including Canadian Idol contestant Bernard Quilala and St. Albert's Martha Livingstone. Well over 1,300 people reportedly made the follicular sacrifice that day, something that touched organizer Tammy MacDonald. She had nothing but high praise for the army of volunteers who helped out and for the participants, many of whom were schoolchildren.
“This year was the best event ever. I left the event and I was exhausted as usual but I was elated with just a sense of accomplishment for what the event did. Everybody was happy. Overall the feel was really, really good. It was a good experience for people. I think that's important. That's a memory that is going to sit with all of us forever. That's priceless. That's what keeps people coming back.
“We definitely had more people. It was busier. Usually we have an afternoon lull; we always have. This year we just didn't suffer the lull so much. It was pretty steady. We had bums in chairs the whole day.”
So far approximately $815,000 has been counted but some participants are still sending in their pledges. MacDonald is very confident that the final tally will be much higher but can't speculate on how high just yet. “We will definitely top over $900,000. It's possible that we'll make the million but I don't know. I'm happy that we got over (last year's amount).”
In the first seven years the Hair Massacure has raised over $3.6 million. Lately the empire has expanded to include sales of the hot pink Kali Bears at McDonald's restaurants. “They've been selling like hotcakes. It's crazy!”
Media interest can get pretty intense at times too, especially when local celebrities like Edmonton Oilers right-winger Patrick O'Sullivan briefly joined the pinkhead club right before he took a razor to it. MacDonald promises that this family run event is never going to lose its roots though. She gave a special accolade to the hairstylists whose job on Friday is much harder than many people would think.
“We've had stylists that have fallen apart shaving a head. Every year it happens. They're exposed to the heart of the event. They get to hear all of the stories about why people are shaving.”