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Insider Events – Hair Donation Ottawa 2019


By: Katherine Craig | Oct 1, 2019

Hair Donation Ottawa

September 22, 2019

Algonquin College Salon, Spa & Boutique

Lead Planners:

Organizing Committee:

Number of Attendees: Almost 300 participants and over 600 event attendees throughout the day.


Hair Donation Ottawa (HDO) is an annual event organized this year by the CHEO Foundation to attract people who are interested in fundraising for cancer research by donating their hair and/or shaving their heads (or beards). On event day, each participant who raises the minimum amount ($150 for adults or $75 for children and youth under 18 years of age) receives a wash, cut & style (or shave) from a professional stylist or barber.

There are two primary objectives: to raise funds for cutting-edge cancer research at CHEO and to empower kids with hair loss by providing free wigs.

There is no minimum hair length needed to participate! All hair donations measuring 6” or longer are evaluated for the wig-making process, and all other hair is redirected to Green Circle Salons to create hair booms that help clean up oil spills in oceans, lakes and beaches. Anyone can register for the event and fundraise to have a wash, cut and style or even shave their head! Either way, no hair goes to waste and it supports two great causes.

Founded in 2011, by cancer survivor Helene Hutchings, this event has raised over $570,000 and collected over 25,000 inches of hair, thanks to a powerful supporting community. Hair stylists and barbers from various Ottawa area salons, as well as teaching staff and students from the Algonquin College Hairstyling Program, volunteer their time.

For HDO to be successful, it requires a large team including the organizing committee, more than 50 volunteer professional hairstylists, 40+ event day volunteers, and 55+ event partners.

First Year for CHEO

After the 2018 event, Hutchings decided it was time to step back from organizing the fundraiser and asked the CHEO Foundation to takeover. Keep in mind, Hutchings, Lorri Huppert and the other organizers were all working full time jobs and did this “on the side”. It was a huge undertaking to put on every year.

The CHEO Foundation had not planned events like this before and doesn’t have planners on staff. Third-party partners typically plan events in support of CHEO. Putting the right team in place from CHEO, communicating with the people who had worked on this event in the past, understanding the nuances of the hair industry and of the event, were all important steps.

Historically, HDO took place in April, but it was decided to move the date to September, which coincides with Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. With new organizers and the date change, there was concern that HDO would lose some of its momentum, but fortunately, that was not the case. Planning started in late May, and after months of hard work, the organizers were thrilled with what they were able to put together in a short period of time.

Highest Turnout Ever

Hair Donation Ottawa 2019 had a record-breaking number of participants, with almost 300 people registered on-line, and several walk-ins. Furthermore, three days before event day, the $75,000 fundraising goal had already been met. The total was $104,147 after event day, with donations continuing to trickle in until October 31! We also collected almost 3,000 inches of hair.

Most importantly, Hutchings was happy with what the team put together, upholding her legacy of a truly inspiring event.



The funds go primarily towards cutting-edge cancer research at the CHEO Research Institute to benefit both children and adults. The event also makes the following possible:

  • Two annual $500 bursaries to financially challenged Algonquin College Hairstyling Program students to help offset tuition fees and/or textbooks;
  • The manufacture and fitting of approximately ten free wigs a year for financially challenged children, in partnership with Caralyn's Hair & Wig Design;
  • The production of hair booms for soaking up oil spills on beaches, lakes and oceans, through Green Circle Salons;
  • The manufacture of a free, trendy head scarf for every CHEO patient who requires one.

Appointment Software

For scheduling appointments, it was decided to use an online program called Picktime. Participants were able to reserve their own time for a cut & style, beard shave or head shave. Typically, this software is used for service-based businesses, so using it for a single day event took some thought. The College has two salons, each with 26 hairstyling chairs. The organizers made each chair a “team member” for the online “HDO salon”. Each chair was open for specific hours in the morning, afternoon or all day, based on the number of stylists available.

The programmers at Picktime were quick to implement suggestions for improvement, and overall, it worked much better than asking participants to send their appointment requests by email. One problem was that in addition to the standard fields asking for name, age, hair length, etc., there was a “comments” option. People provided accessibility information or made requests such as a particular stylist or to be seated close to someone else. Unfortunately, the reports function did not export the comments and one had to click into each appointment in the calendar to view them. Sorting through all these comments as new appointments were booked was very time consuming. This is an area that will need to be improved next year and we are already brainstorming!



Better Marketing

This year, the organizers invested in an updated and user-friendly website. The old site was not easy to navigate and was difficult to update through the back end. The new website captures the look and feel of the event and is simple for both users and the organizers to update, without paying a professional website designer.

The communications plan included videos, images and graphics on social media channels such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The word got out, and several radio and television stations broadcast interviews about HDO. These efforts increased the public’s engagement and brought the event to record levels.

katherine-craig-headshot-2019 Article written by Katherine Craig, CHEO Foundation

Article edited by Melanie Hudson, National Association of Federal Retirees

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