More than a dozen people from the Wet’suwet’en community donated their hair to help raise money for the 2013 Relay for Life campaign.
Relay for Life, a national event that raised more than $51 million in 2012, is a combined fundraising effort and celebration for those who have survived or are fighting the various forms of the disease.
Elaine Stevens, Moricetown health centre nurse, took the lead in organizing the event after requests from the community.
“It’s amazing the community came together in this way,” Stevens said.
“I didn’t think it would be this big.”
A packed transit-style bus from Hagwilget arrived before the event.
In all the Wet’suwet’en raised more than $4,100 toward cancer research, which included a gift basket auction.
But the most surprising part of the event was that it was happening at all, Stevens said.
“First Nations people usually don’t donate their hair for any cause because it hasn’t been our way,” Stevens said.
With that considered the event was started by a prayer for the donors and recipients of the locks shed during the ceremony.
“Another thing was the amount of men who gave hair,” Stevens said.
“There were quite a few first happening that day.”
One of the firsts was Stevens’ son Cam, who was the inaugural cut of the afternoon.
It was his first ever hair cut and he did so in honour of Marlaine Skulsh, who was like a mother to his father Cam Sr. and passed away last year.
“He was very emotional while in the chair,” Stevens said.
“But that was just the beginning of a very emotional day.”
Another young donor, Jada Dominic, only participated if her hair went to another young girl, which she was assured it would be attempted by the B.C. Cancer Society.
All hair donated will go to the regional cancer office in Prince George, where recipients will be determined based on need.
To donate hair it had to be all natural, meaning never dyed and one participant had been unknowingly preparing for quite some time.
Trina Alfred stood out as the donor giving up the most, as her hair measured slightly more than 60 centimetres long segments.
Now that an event where a First Nations community in northwestern B.C. has begun to donate hair, Stevens hopes a trend has started.
“Our First Nations communities are being hit pretty hard by cancer,” Stevens said.
“It doesn’t matter who you are you can get this disease.”
Moricetown has also started a proactive approach in the hopes of detecting cancer early in susceptible individuals.
“We’ve been taking ladies 10 at a time for breast exams in Smithers,” Stevens said.
“Three women have been called back and we lost one of them because it was too late.
“The other two are undergoing treatment.”
But now the early detection exams can be done at the Moricetown health centre and every Wednesday a doctor visits to conduct prostate exams for concerned men.
Two teams are uniting for the Relay for Life event under the Sargent Rock and the Rebels banner, which includes several RCMP officers and Wet’suwet’en community members.
Stevens encourages any and all who wish to take part in the Relay for Life in Smithers June 8, which is a 12-hour walk around the track at Smithers secondary school.
For more information visit convio.cancer.ca and click the Relay for Life link.