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Earl Marriott student cuts hair for cancer

On Feb. 18, James Pennefather (inset) organized a Balding for Dollars fundraiser at Earl Marriott Secondary in honour of his cousin, Sara (top inset, with father, Ken), who died of cancer in 1999.  - Contributed photos
On Feb. 18, James Pennefather (inset) organized a Balding for Dollars fundraiser at Earl Marriott Secondary in honour of his cousin, Sara (top inset, with father, Ken), who died of cancer in 1999.
— image credit: Contributed photos

It’ll be easy getting ready in the morning for at least 30 Earl Marriot Secondary students who shaved their head or cut their hair for a fundraiser benefitting BC Children’s Hospital last month.

The Feb. 18 event, part of the the Balding for Dollars campaign, was organized by Grade 12 student James Pennefather to raise awareness and funds for the hospital.

Pennefather, 17, became involved with the campaign in honour of his late cousin, Sara Aney, who passed away in 1999 at the age of eight from the disease.

When Sara was sick and lost her hair while undergoing chemotherapy, her father, Ken, shaved his head as a sign of solidarity, Pennefather said.

“It cheered her up,” Pennefather said. “It was something so small that made such a difference.”

Although Pennefather was just five years old when Sara passed away, her death had a lasting effect on him because of their close relationship.

As he became older, he wanted to find a way to honour his cousin’s memory.

Pennefather first decided to shave his head to raise funds for BC Children’s Hospital when he was in Grade 7. With his parents support, he organized a similar event.

Since that day, he had been growing his hair out – with occasional trims – in order to shave it again.

“Why not, I mean it is literally money that grows back,” he said, about his slightly-longer-than-shoulder-length hair, which he had tied back in a ponytail.

Dozens of students crowded around the pair of stylists from Men Zone – who had donated their time and services the last time Pennefather had organized an event – laughing and taking pictures as their friends got shaved and styled.

Helping Pennefather with the event was Sara’s older sister, Karen.

Despite the beauty of her waist-length flowing chestnut hair, she said she had no qualms about facing the scissors for a dramatic cut.

“I have done it before, but this time, I’m not going to go as short,” she said.

Her long locks will be made into a wig which will be donated to someone who has lost their hair due to illness and cannot afford to purchase one.

Karen was 12 years old when her sister passed away from cancer, and said she remembers the outstanding care the doctors and staff at BC Children’s Hospital gave to her sister and her family.

“They were amazing, they went above and beyond,” she said. “It was obviously not a good time, but they made it a little better.”

Now 26, she says she is proud of her cousin for the work he has done keeping Sara’s memory alive and supporting the hospital.

“You don’t see a lot of teenagers in high school who do stuff like this,” she said. “We’re all so proud of him.”

All of the proceeds went to BC Children’s Hospital’s Balding for Dollars campaign.

According to the hospital’s website, Pennefather is one of the top five top fundraisers for the event, with a total of $1,395, so far.

 

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