Five years, thousands of dollars and hundreds of feet of hair – that’s a milestone for many reasons for Helene Hutchings, a 43 year old local real estate agent and cancer survivor who decided to turn her own experience into something positive for local cancer patients.

We live in an incredible city, filled with wonderful people who become inspired to do amazing things for other people.  As part of the WBN of Ottawa – we know the incredible capacity “the biggest small town in Canada” has to rise to the needs of the people of its community.  This week’s story is about just that – and maybe it will inspire you to participate or support the upcoming installment of Hair Donation Ottawa.

Did you know that a chemotherapy patient has a 50 per cent chance of losing their hair during treatment?  Wigs can help patients look and feel more like themselves when this happens, but can be expensive.  While Helene did not suffer this side effect – she wanted to do something for those that did.  So, after wrapping up her own treatment in January 2011, she started planning an event for April, cancer awareness month.  She wanted it to have a double impact – collect hair donations for wigs – and raise money for cancer research.

The whole idea was for people to collect pledges and cut their hair – saving the locks for wigs.  It’s come a long way from a few chairs at the Mahogany Salon and Spa in Stittsville.  Now, into year five, it will be held in the new and expanded digs of the Algonquin College hair stylist program at the Woodroffe campus.  This doubles the work space to 52 stations, which means more people can get their hair cut in the same amount of time.  Last year, 400 people fundraised and donated their locks. Hutchings anticipates double that number this year.  This year’s event is building on the work of local licensed stylists who volunteer their time and talent and have raised $130,000 – lopping off more than 4,000 inches or 333 feet of hair!

Last year, funds were split between Dr. David Stojdl’s lab at CHEO and Dr. John Bell’s oncolytic virus lab at The Ottawa Hospital.  Both are conducting joint, cutting-edge research into viral oncolytic biotherapeutic cancer treatments. This year, a 50/50 split is planned, with a guaranteed $40,000 going to Dr. Bell’s lab.   You can read more about Dr. Bell’s lab and Tender Loving Research at The Ottawa hospital.

“It’s a really good cause because so many people are affected by cancer,” says Hutchings. “Important child and adult cancer research is being undertaken here in Ottawa and it has a global impact.”

On Sunday, April 26, 2015, Hutchings hopes to donate over 2,500 inches of hair and $100,000 to cancer research.  For more information and to register, please visit the Hair Donation Ottawa website.

Special Thanks:  To my colleague Season Osborne for sharing her resources for this story.