Kids in hospice care in the mid-north received a huge boost on Sunday from a group of Bald Angels.
Far North residents raised more than $25,000 on the day and money still coming in. The mass head shave was supported by more than 50 local businesses. And the community came out in style: 62 people had their heads shaved in Kerikeri on Sunday. And the Turner Centre Plaza was filled with spectators and supporters.
The day's events were a relatively spontaneous community effort.
Therese Wickbom, who owns and operates Cafe Cinema with her husband Mats, started the Bald Angels a mere six weeks ago with her friend Inky Storms.
"It started as a point in life where I felt like I had to do something," Therese says. She reached a significant time in her life and she was grateful for what she had. She wanted to do something for herself as well as for others. "I can look back and I can say: ‘When I was 50, I did that and I helped make a difference."'
Therese says she read a story of a 2-year-old girl sent home from the hospital. She had lost her hair through her therapy. That was inspiration enough.
"I just thought, God, how brave people are to cope with an illness and cope with that loss of their self as well," she says.
It was then that Therese wondered if she would be brave enough to shave her head.
But Inky walked into the cafe that day and Therese had an idea.
"I thought: Perfect target - if anyone will do this with me, she will."
Therese says her friend is "as mad as a rat" and a kindred spirit.
Inky didn't realise that the following conversation would turn into what it did.
Therese remembers that brief exchange a month and a half ago.
"I said to Inky: ‘Would you shave your head to raise money for kids if I did it too?' And she said: ‘No, I'd shave my armpits.' And we laughed and that was the end of it."
A couple of days later Inky was back with some friends, including her partner, an artist who would donate some art to help raise money.
They decided then that they ought to try to raise some serious money.
Therese then set a goal of trying to get 50 people to join in and raise some money to shave their heads.
She says that at that point a lightbulb went on.
"It just started rolling from there," Inky says.
Inky started to consider the idea herself. Her own health, the health of her family, and thinking about the sick children in the area let her reach the conclusion, "Why not? Let's make a difference."
A stranger sponsored her her first $20, before she told her partner.
Inky remembers him coming in to the cafe the day she told him.
"He just looked at me and turned around and walked out," she says.
He returned 15 minutes later. She remembers that he was a bit short with her when he first learned.
But he got over the shock and is now very supportive, she says.
Inky and Therese both are proud Bald Angels.
"This community in Northland is amazing," Therese says.
"I have never in my long life come across this sort of spirit ever, anywhere.
"People wanting to do something good just for the sake of doing something good, just for the sake of helping people they will never meet. It blows me away.
"We had money coming in from Estonia," Therese told Inky on Sunday.
"If we had thought about this and planned this, given it more time, who knows what would have happened," Therese says.
They know they wanted to get money in the bank, to start helping children immediately. Six weeks, two inspiring people and a community with spirit and now Bald Angels is no longer just an idea.
- Bay Chronicle