By Sue Tiffin
Wendy Bolt devotes much of her time to volunteering in Minden.
Besides being a long-time driver, taking people to medical appointments outside of town, she has also long volunteered at the Minden Legion, where she has recently been made president.
And besides being giving with her time, every four years or so she also makes an effort to share her hair.
This unique form of giving started 12 years ago, in 2010, when Bolt was retiring from teaching. Throughout her life, she’d known many people – university peers, former students, family members, including her mom – to be diagnosed with cancer, and so when she retired, she told her colleagues she didn’t want a retirement party. Instead, she wanted people to donate to the Canadian Cancer Society.
“It’s always been around me,” said Bolt. “Cancer’s everywhere, it’s so prevalent.”
In return for donations, she would shave her head – with about 28 inches of hair being donated toward the society’s efforts to make wigs for people undergoing hair loss due to cancer treatment.
“It was in July that it happened,” she recalls. “One of the secretaries where I worked, her husband was a hairdresser, so I arranged for him to come. I had it done at work, outside, and raised over $10,000 for the cancer society.”
Four years later, Bolt was on the executive of the Minden Legion, and the building needed a new floor. Remembering the success of the last campaign, Bolt volunteered to shave her head again, and the Bald for the Building Campaign was formed, with several thousand dollars for the renovation effort raised at a Canada Day booth in Minden.
About four years later, Bolt decided to do it again, this time without the fundraising but in a show of support for a family member who had breast cancer, and whose kids were struggling as their mom lost her hair.
This year, Bolt has shaved her hair again – with help from her hairdresser, her 90-year-old dad – to donate 20 inches of it to Just Between Friends, a wig, mastectomy and bra boutique based in London, Ontario.
“I don’t like talking about myself, but I want to encourage other people to help others,” said Bolt. “People think this is weird that I do it maybe, I don’t know, but to me it’s no big deal. It’s just hair. But it means so much to the person receiving it.”
Bolt said because this time the hair might be used in a child’s wig, she was asked to separate it into smaller sections. Hair – at least six inches – needs to air dry, and not be dyed (“It has to be coloured by Mother Nature, I say,” laughed Bolt), then wrapped in tissue paper and sent to the organization.
Bolt said in her eight years of medical driving with the cancer society and Community Support Services, and through friends and family who have received wigs, she knows the importance of being involved in the donation program.
“A lot of people want to be private about it, but when they start to lose their hair, they can’t anymore – it’s a real visible thing,” said Bolt. “I drive a chemo patient now, every two weeks. His hair’s just starting to come back. Yesterday he saw me, and he said, mine’s not as long as yours yet but mine’s just started to grow again. We kind of had a chuckle about it. It’s such a personal thing for people.”
Bolt said she encourages others to help in whatever way they can, especially at a time when so many individuals and volunteer-based organizations are in need.
“We should be kind to each other,” she said. “We’ve all been through a terrible time these last three years, people need help. Little acts of kindness are huge, they really can be huge for somebody. Being positive is a powerful thing – as we know, being negative is a powerful thing, too. It’s so easy to be negative, but if we can try to do positive things, that really makes a difference. Even the little things make a difference.”