Firemen shorn in support of colleague
By Oona Woods
When Whistler fire-fighter Keith Mellor came forward and told his friends and co-workers he had Hodgkin’s Disease, or Lymph node cancer, they all rallied around to support him.
Not only did Whistler fire-fighters start a campaign to raise money for the Canadian Cancer Society and awareness of the disease, they also put there heads together in a show of solidarity for Mellor as he faces chemotherapy treatment.
That’s why there are 30 or so bald fire-fighters walking around town.
Mark Kuiper and Mitch Hunter are considered by many to be the ringleaders in this gesture, although they deny this when confronted.
"Mitch and I had an idea to support him," says Kuiper. "But it was a bunch of people who brought the idea forward. They all had the same idea. So we went for it."
"We started going around and everyone said ‘yes’," adds Hunter. "Everyone across the department did it, including one of the women. We’ve been calling her G.I. Jane."
Hodgkin’s Disease has a 75 to 80 per cent chance of remission with treatment, and the prognosis for Mellor is good.
Hunter says the purpose of this mass shaving is plain and simple.
"Mostly the message that we wanted to get out there was to Keith. He’s our brother. We love him and support him. As a bonus we are trying to raise money for the Canadian Cancer Society. That aspect has been going really well. Keith’s girlfriend Jennifer has helped us out with organizing the forms. So all we did was shave our heads."
Mellor was called in to the chief’s office on the day of the shave and co-workers say he had no idea what was going on.
"There was a big shave-o-rama," describes Kuiper. "Then we assembled in the hall with old fire department hats on. He walked in and we all took them off. He was smiling from ear to ear, like he always does."
"It was the first time I ever saw Keith almost lost for words," quipped fireman John Cassidy.
"He’s a really spirited guy so it went over really well," says Hunter.
"You would never know he has it besides the fact he has no hair," says Kuiper.
There is a general opinion among the fire-fighters that nothing will keep Mellor down for long.
Donations to the Canadian Cancer Society can be made through any of the Whistler Fire-fighters. For more information contact the Fire Department on 932-2020.