MERCURY SERIES: Making A Difference
Brave 12-year-old Albion Park High School student Alicia Wheatley wanted to make a difference this month after hearing about the impact of cancer on other people's lives.
It was something she had been thinking about for a while but when a friend of her mother, Beck Ford, was diagnosed with breast cancer, she realised how many lives were touched by cancer and that inspired her to do something to help the fight.
That family friend is presently undergoing treatment but was given a morale boost last week after Alicia decided to help raise money for breast and prostate cancer research by cutting off her long hair.
The shave caught the attention of her entire school community and with so much support from students and teachers she decided to have her mum cut off all her long hair and then shave her head in front of the whole school at morning assembly.
More than 1000 students and teachers looked on, as the biggest challenge for her mother was the initial phase of cutting off her long flowing hair with a pair of scissors.
"Mum had to cut off the ponytail first," Alicia said.
"It was hard for her to cut that. She has cut my hair to shoulder length before but she has never cut it that short. I actually like it.
"My friends were surprised I was actually going to do this. No-one thought I was going to go through with it."
Among those watching the year 7 student was Haylie Plumridge, who said it was a privilege to watch on as she tied up Alicia's hair.
"By this stage donations were around the $1100 mark," Mrs Ford said.
"As Beck started to shave Alicia's hair the donations started rolling in. Even one of the school teachers got involved and said he would shave his moustache off if the students and teachers 'put $100 in now'. The target was reached very quickly."
Mrs Plumridge said it may have taken Alicia years to grow her hair but it took less than 10 minutes for it all to be all gone.
Alicia said she had never done anything like it before and it was the first time she had short hair since she was a baby.
Cutting off hair seems to run in the family.
Mrs Wheatley said when her good friend was having chemo and started losing her hair she decided to cut off her hair in support so they would look the same whenever they went out together.
Alicia was inspired by that and when her mum returned from a two-week trip to Bali, that was when she discovered what her daughter had planned to raise money.
Along the way she has had great support from her fiends and relatives such as Sophie Nicholson and Emily Clifford.
Some of her friends helped her make pink and blue cupcakes to sell in the days leading up to the shave.
On one day they made $103.60 and more than $400 overall from the cup cakes.
The combined fund-raising effort by everyone involved with the shave raised $2225.60.
"Most of it was raised at school but there was a couple of outside donations from Shellharbour City Council and from the Girl Guides group," she said.
"I will probably do it again next year."
She hopes to one day grow her hair long enough to be made into a wig but it was not long enough to do that this time.