Saturday marked the fourth year in a row for Hailey’s Shave, a fundraiser for Camp Delight and the Candlelighters organization and according to organizer and mom Sonija Walsh, it was the most meaningful one yet for her family.
That’s because the dad in the family, Paul Walsh, faced his own battle with cancer this past year. Paul finished radiation and chemotherapy treatments two weeks ago and is looking hale and hearty. In fact, he stood in for daughter Hailey, who opted not to have her locks shorn this year as she is participating on the cheerleading squad with her school, St. Kevin’s Junior High in the Goulds, and they have a regional competition coming up.
“Shortly after Hailey shaved last year – she did it in May and Paul found out in June he had cancer, only a couple of weeks after,” Sonjia said.
But Paul did so well with his treatments, he even managed to gain weight at the end, though he was really sick from the chemo treatments at first.
The couple, who are originally from Cape Broyle but now live in the Goulds, got a front row seat to the effects of cancer on a family in a way they had not expected. It gave Sonjia an even deeper appreciation of the need for fundraising efforts such as Hailey’s Shave.
The impact is financial as well as emotional, Walsh said. “It’s a major burden,” she noted. “I know as a wife, with my husband being sick, how stressful it is. While the person who is sick is focused on getting better, you’ve got to deal with the household and the finances and keeping the family together.”
Walsh said she really feels for families who have a child with cancer. In many cases, she said, one or both of the parents have to give up their jobs to accompany the child on visits and stays at the hospital. “You can’t keep a job like that, when you’re going back and forth (to the hospital) all the time just for appointments alone,” Walsh said.
The money raised for Camp Delight and the Candlelighters, Walsh said, enables families to send their child to summer camp with his or her peers, who also have cancer, and have fun in a safe environment so that the parents don’t have to worry or go through expenses they can’t afford.
Camp Delight is located off the Salmonier Line. It lasts eight days and is open to children from seven to 17 whop have cancer, as well as their siblings and bereaved siblings. Like most summer camps, it provides the children with an opportunity to experience personal growth. The camp is organized by the Candlelighters Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (ww.candlelightersnl.ca).
This year’s Hailey’s Shave was the biggest yet in terms of activities. The venue was the gymnasium of Goulds Elementary, which was lined with booths including Pixie Mommas and Glitter Tattoos. There was a guest visit from Buddy the Puffin and a donation of a stick from the Ice Caps for a ticket draw. A canteen was also in operation to provide soup and snacks.
“We tried to cover it all,” said Walsh. “Our goal is to get more awareness… And we’re really looking to expand next year – the bigger the better.”
Walsh said she and fellow shavers Kathy Ricketts and Melissa Randell would like to shave many more heads if they get the chance.
Six children participated in this year’s shave, raising some $3,172. The number is a little lower than usual, because Paul, who works offshore, unavailable to raise money from his fellow workers. But the amount is on top of the approximately $25,000 the annual Hailey’s Shave events have raised for Camp Delight.
The total amount raised may have been down slightly, but the effort and heart that went into it wasn’t.
“This year meant more to me than all the rest of them,” Walsh said.