Whistler Balding for Dollars closing in on $200K mark 

Myrtle Philip student raises $4,000 in pledges for 19-month afro

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The 11th anniversary of Balding for Dollars in Whistler takes place on Sunday, March 31. While there's a lot that's familiar — it's at the GLC once again, the Hairfarmers are playing, and dozens of men and women of all ages will be lining up to have their heads shaved by volunteers from Blackcomb Barber Shoppe — the stories are always different.

Take Nathan Lee and his incredible afro: the Myrtle Philip Community School student set out with an audacious goal of raising $2,500 for BC Children's Hospital's cancer program, and has already shattered that amount. As of March 19 he had already raised pledges worth $3,685, and had commitments that would bring him over $4,000. A few of the donations are larger but most are in the $20 to $25 range.

"It's been a family effort," said his mother Lee Lee. "We're all pitching in and people love Nathan and want to support him and this cause. We're overwhelmed. We haven't even canvassed our neighbours yet."

Nathan heard about Balding for Dollars last year when he visited a family doctor who participated in 2012. Nathan hadn't had a haircut since the start of the school year in 2011, and his doctor bet him $100 that he couldn't go another year without cutting his hair — a bet he accepted. When he heads to Balding for Dollars he'll be shaving off about 19 months worth of growth.

"I like it, it feels cool," he said of his Afro, although he's also looking forward to shaving it off on March 31. "I'm very excited," he said. "So far we've raised just over $4,000."

This year the Whistler Balding For Dollars event has set a goal of raising $15,000, and so far Nathan's contributions represent the lion's share of pledges for the event. If the event reaches its goal — and event day donations typically eclipse pledges as bidding wars start over particularly amazing heads of hair — the event will reach an 11-year tally of over $198,000, just shy of the $200,000 mark.

Event directors Dave and Wendy Clark are hoping that with the help of kids like Nathan Lee that they'll exceed their goal.

"We would obviously be stoked for anything over and above our goal, and hitting $200,000 would be golden," he said.

"We know we're going to hit that mark next year if we don't hit it this year, so we're not going to get too hung up on the numbers — but it would be terrible to get so close and not reach it. If we're close, I'll put in the difference myself."

Clark said that community support for the event has been strong, with the Crystal Lodge stepping in to host a silent auction for the second year. He also pointed to people like local musician Rajan Das who has been shaved every year since the beginning. But it's the involvement of kids like Nathan that inspire Clark the most.

"When kids get involved, regardless of how much they raise, for us it really strikes a chord at the core of why we do this," he said.

"We do it year after year because the fact that kids get cancer is so wrong in our minds. There's nothing we can do about it, but it seems so wrong in nature and when kids get involved they get an appreciation and understanding that there are other kids out there that are not as fortunate as them in terms of their health."

The shaving takes place during the après ski rush at 3:30 p.m. If you make a last-minute decision to take part then be sure to get there early because the event does fill up.

For more information, or to make a pledge to Nathan or other participants, visit www.whistlerbaldingfordollars.com.

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