Karsen Myers got his long hair cut a bit early because of bullying at school and at a local skate park.
The nine-year-old Surrey boy had been growing his blond locks with a goal of raising $20,000 for Balding for Dollars, the children’s cancer charity, but the teasing got too much.
“Some of the kids were calling him a girl because of how long his hair was,” said Karsen’s mom, Tara Blackwell.
“The bullying started this year.… He really hated when they called him Kaitlin instead of Karsen. He’d come home crying, saying, ‘They were just awful to me today,’” she added.
So, a decision was made to cut his hair just before Christmas, several months shy of his planned haircut in May – but Karsen’s fundraising efforts have not been cut short.
People and groups continue to chip in with donations, including some Surrey firefighters who heard about Karsen’s cause and came to his aid.
On Boxing Day, Karsen and his sister were given a special tour of a Clayton Heights firehall, in the neighbourhood where the family lives, and Surrey Fire Fighters Charitable Society contributed $1,000 to his fundraiser.
“With that donation, we’re at $12,450.82 right now, which is amazing,” Blackwell said.
When they met Karsen, the firefighters wore pink shirts in a stand against bullying.
“Keep up the great work Karsen,” the firefighters posted to their Facebook page.
Blackwell said Karsen’s fundraising project was a perfect fit for him, as it showed his determination and lively spirit.
“He always dug the long-hair vibe, and it was just above his ears when I read him this story of a local boy doing something similar,” Blackwell explained. “He lit up and said, ‘I can do that,’ and I said, ‘Yeah you can.’”
The fundraising began last April, about a year after Karsen began growing his hair, and the $20,000 goal was set.
“We just sort of threw that number out there, and he raised the first $1,000 in the first week, and it just kept going as more people shared it (on social media),” Blackwell said. “We’re pretty blown away by how many people are interested in this cause, which is great.”
Balding for Dollars is a partnership program with BC Children’s Hospital Foundation, which aims to raise funds for oncology, hematology, and bone marrow transplant patients while also collecting hair donations.
Karsen’s chopped hair is already being made into wigs. “They were impressed by how much hair was (donated),” Blackwell said.
Karsen’s fundraising page will remain active until May, when a Balding for Dollars wrap-up event is scheduled.
“He’s super excited, and getting to the point of being a bit overwhelmed, but he’s loving it,” Blackwell said of all the attention, including reports on TV news.
As for the bullying Karsen endured, Blackwell didn’t want to name the school he attends, but planned to meet with staff to discuss what can be done in the future.
“I’ll be talking with school about connection and bullying,” she said in mid-December. “The support staff and the principal are amazing, and I just want to make certain the future is positive, not only for Karsen, but everyone.”
An outpouring of support from friends on social media has given her hope that the message is getting through.
“I’ve just been learning so much – to be mindful of what we say. People have been so positive and supportive in a way I didn’t think was possible in this and age,” Blackwell said.
with a file from Ryan Uytdewilligen, Black Press Media