Gerty Thomson has a Terry Fox Research Foundation T-shirt with ribbons pinned to the back bearing the initials of more than 100 people, including family and friends, who have battled cancer. While some succumbed, many survived.
“How many people here can make a list like that?” she asked at Fisherman’s Wharf on Aug. 24. “How many names would they have?”
Thomson posits that nearly everyone she knows has a similar list, albeit probably not pinned to the back of a shirt. For that reason, leading up to the Terry Fox Run this year, she decided to take her fundraising efforts one step further than in previous years and cut her hair for cancer.
“The nuts and bolts of it is cancer is making me upset,” Thomson told The Hub.
While ‘shave to save’ campaigns are fairly common, Thomson’s had a twist. Instead of outright shaving her head, she sold off the right to cut individual locks of her hair, including auctioning the second strand for over $100. In order to preserve some length, she had ribbons tied around the locks to guide donors in their snipping efforts.
“I want to preserve some of my vanity,” she said jokingly. “This is my first time doing a haircut for cancer.”
The event kicked off a time of increased activity to combat cancer in Hay River, with Travis Darling, programmer at the Don Stewart Recreation Centre, serving as the master of ceremonies. He said it wasn’t only about raising money in anticipation of the Terry Fox Run to be held Sept. 15, but also awareness and support for community members touched by cancer in one way or another.
“We’re hoping for at least 100 participants,” he said. “If every one of them raises $10, I think that would be a good and achievable goal.”
This year’s Terry Fox Run will start at the rec centre at 1 p.m. on Sept. 15, and go out to the Homesteaders and back, for a total distance of 10 km.
Darling said he hopes people will volunteer to carry water and support the participants if they cannot run themselves.
“It’s about raising not only funds, but resources and awareness for issues that touch most, if not all, people in the community,” he said.
As for the haircut itself, Darling would like to see the event become an annual thing, though potentially with different subjects, and serve as a kick-off to the Terry Fox Run campaign.
Thomson’s daughter, Elaine Hiebert, cut the very first lock, but she was not the only family member backing Thomson on Saturday. Her granddaughters were also on hand to help out and support the cause.
“My family are my number one supporters,” said Thomson. “My helpers know who they are and I thank them profusely.”
Despite the many years she has been fundraising for cancer research, Thomson is in no way discouraged. She said, although there is no cure for the disease itself yet, she knows people who have benefited immensely from developments in chemotherapy treatments and anti-nausea drugs that help make the experience somewhat less awful.
Standing on a log at Fisherman’s Wharf and speaking over the hubbub of the crowd, Thomson thanked everyone who had donated to the Terry Fox Research Foundation and came out to support her that day.
“Thank you,” she said. “Together we can find solutions.”
— Sarah Ladik