A hair-raising journey followed by an extreme haircut for charity
Losing 10 kilograms during a four-month charity walk from one tip of the country to the other wasn't enough for Daniel Lee.
The 23-year-old is now even lighter, after having his dreadlocks lopped off to raise more money for Hawke's Bay's rescue helicopter.
When Lee was 6, the Lowe Corporation rescue helicopter flew him to hospital after a life-threatening tractor accident near Waipukurau in Central Hawke's Bay.
In November, he left Cape Reinga on a five-month journey to cover the 3000-kilometre Te Araroa trail to Bluff, with the aim of raising $10,000 for the rescue service that helped save his life.
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By the time he reached the bottom of the South Island last week, he had pulled in more than $15,000 through a Givealittle page. It has since topped $17,000.
He decided to do another round of fundraising by selling snipping rights to his hair at $200 a dreadlock.
Thursday was haircut day, with Lee's head-shaving part of a welcome-home ceremony attended by patients from Hawke's Bay Hospital's children's ward.
On top of the money raised for the helicopter trust, the "Ditch Dan's Dreads" campaign raised at least $5800 towards a special outside space at Hawke's Bay Hospital for immune-compromised children.
While he may have had a close shave in the barber's chair, Lee – who chronicled his marathon trek down the country on a Facebook page – said the only frightening experience during the journey was when he and two friends were caught in storms as they crossed the Tararua Range in January.
"We were up there in a complete whiteout for about four days, and it rained for about six," he said.
"The winds were about 110kmh as we were walking along the tops. At some stages we were on all-fours and we'd never go any further than five metres from each other because, if one of us had fallen, we'd never see them."
Lee said he was overwhelmed by the natural beauty he saw along the way, as well as by the generosity of people he encountered on the trek.
"About six times in Northland a complete stranger invited me into their home for the night. That was pretty priceless, really.
"I'd been plotting in my head to do this for about five years and I've been planning to give back to the helicopter since I was about 15, so it's a really cool feeling to have finally done what I've always wanted to do.
"I could wake up tomorrow and start it all over again. It was the time of my life."