Ponytail coming off for funds

19:02, Oct 31 2012
HAIR TODAY: Kerikeri general practitioner Simon Bristow and Therese Wickbom get creative on ways to raise money. Simon has put up his pony tail as a fundraiser.

Simon Bristow, aka Dr Bald Angel, of Kerimed, has grown his hair for nine years, usually tied up in a ponytail. He says he's happy to shave the lot off for a good cause:

"At least I have the choice."

When Mats Wickbom of Cafe Cinema mentioned to Simon they were organising a fundraising event to raise money for children in palliative care with Hospice Mid Northland, Simon had no hesitation.

Mats' wife Therese is approaching a significant birthday and when she pondered her good fortune and grace to be reaching such a milestone a big party was not on her wish list.

Reading an article about an ill child, who had been sent home to die, brought her to her knees.

"My heart crumbled for the parents and family of the poor child. But at the same time there was a sense of enormous gratitude and humility that I'd arrived at this stage in my life with gorgeous healthy children and an almost normal me."


Half jokingly she said to her friend: "If I shave my head to raise money for sick kids will you?" They laughed - but two days later both were on the fundraising trail.

Therese realised shaving her hair and getting 10 others on board would not make enough of a difference so she aimed for 50 Bald Angels to sign up - to raise $2000 each.

At first she felt safe that if she could not get 10 in the first week, her bet was off but 11 signed up and she felt that the community was behind them and the cause.

Firing on all cylinders and with a team of helpers Bald Angels/Brave Angels, in association with Hospice Mid Northland, was born. The target has been reached and the big event is scheduled for 4pm on November 11 at the Turner Centre.

There's no stopping them now. T-shirts are on sale, Angel Cake Pops have been donated and auction items are being donated. Companies are now challenging their counterparts.

"It could be New Zealand's biggest ever head shave for charity," Therese says.

"We've thought lots about the community in the North. We have met a real group of caring and compassionate people who are actually brave enough to make a personal statement while raising funds for the bravest kids of all. Lots of people or organisations have shaved for charity but all together on one stage, at one time, we think our community can do it."

Therese says she and Mats are humbled by the support and enthusiasm of others in the community.

Enter Dr Bald Angel. Dr Simon Bristow of Kerimed has been rattling tins and wearing billboards since childhood when his father was involved in Lions fundraising events in Britain.

UK-trained Simon has been an ardent supporter of charities, especially hospice.

He was a doctor on St Helena for four years, raising money for "Have A Heart" his way, by organising a 24-hour music marathon.

He then went on to Mustique where he was a doctor for two years.

He was doctor to Mick Jagger and his family, and when Simon put his fund-raising skills to good use, and with the help of David Bowie, who was on the board, they ran fundraising events for the Mustique Medical Trust.

Simon then went back to Britain, where he worked as a GP for eight years and where again he raised funds and formed a surgery fund for his patients.

In 2001 Simon arrived in Kerikeri and started Kerimed. He has been involved as a board member with the PHO, SPCA, the local inline hockey club and Baysport.

"The Kerimed practice is committed to being part of the community. We have our Christmas float; we have dress-up days for charity. Presently we have two doctors shaving their heads for Bald Angels/Brave Angels and I really feel I should be challenging other GPs in town to join in," Simon says.

"More funding should come from central government for hospice but as it doesn't then the community should get together to make sure their good work can continue."

"Living every Moment" is hospice's motto, says Amanda Breton, fundraising manager for Hospice Mid Northland.

"Caring for children with life limiting illnesses is not all about medical care, we look at the whole picture and what that family might need."

Hospice Mid Northland is involved in joint fundraising initiatives with Wasteworks, Farming for Hospice and are opening their third charity shop in Kawakawa soon.

"We raise about $600,000 per annum at Hospice Mid Northland," Amanda says.

Bay Chronicle