Making A Bald Statement

Shaved heads at Vital help open hearts and minds to the issue of cancer.
Making A Bald Statement
Going bald for a reason (from left): Clarence Ti, Jason Toh and Wong Wai Mun.

For Mr Clarence Ti, the Chief Executive of Vital, cancer is a subject that cuts close to the heart. The 40-year-old lost his father to cancer last year, after a year of fighting.

“I know first-hand that it’s not an easy time,” he says. “Support is so important, not only for the patient but also for the caregivers who have to make sacrifices.”

So when a colleague mooted the idea of getting their heads shaved to help attract donations for the Children’s Cancer Foundation’s annual Hair for Hope (HfH) fundraiser, Mr Ti wasted no time in saying yes.

Together with 16 others from Vital, a shared services centre under the Finance Ministry, Mr Ti had his head shaven at an HfH satellite event held on Vital’s premises on June 21. That inspired more than 180 Vital colleagues to support the cause, raising more than $9,000 – nearly double the original $5,000 target.

Mr Ti is clearly moved by this. “We all need great colleagues to rouse us from our preoccupation with our own lives, to remind us that there are those in our society whose lives are more difficult, more in need than our own,” he says.

Mr Ti, however, is also quick to point out that the satellite event was not an official corporate event.

“Beyond letting our staff send out emails on the subject, there was actually very little that the ‘organisation’ did,” he says. “The word of mouth, the buzz, the rallying was all done by the equivalent of a grassroots movement. It was an effort from the ground up.”

Creating awareness

For Vital’s Operations Director Wong Wai Mun, shaving his head was his way of sharing hope.

Less than a year ago, he had suffered a stroke and lost his speech and memory temporarily. Now getting back on his feet again after months of rehabilitation, he shares, “As I pondered over what life is about and the blessings which I have received, I realised that giving a little hope to others is perhaps a small but right thing to do.”

Mr Wong, who last shaved his head during his National Service, says his family fully supported his decision to participate in the fundraiser. Like the rest of his newly bald colleagues, he is doing his part to start conversations with curious friends and colleagues on the issue of cancer. He hopes their efforts will help more people become aware of cancer, and boost the chances of early detection and cure.

For Mr Jason Toh, Head of Business Growth at Vital, going “botak” for the cause is about delivering a vital message to cancer patients: do not give up.

Mr Toh, whose grandmother and uncle both passed away from cancer some years ago, understands only too well the importance of encouraging patients in their battle against cancer. He adds: “Through my action of shaving my head, I [also] want to teach my kids the values of empathy and care.”

Rallying Vital

Having participated in HfH the past two years, Mr Toh was about to shave his head for the third time as an individual “shavee” when he thought he could, in fact, rally the entire Vital to join him in the fundraising.

It is important that people are aware of and understand cancer so they can join in giving encouragement and showing support to the patients in their fight against cancer.

As the main coordinator for the satellite event, he encouraged his colleagues to sign up as “shavees” or to donate to the cause. Part of this involved sending out publicity emails to explain to his colleagues the work of the Children’s Cancer Foundation and about childhood cancer.

Mr Toh jokes that there was a period when no one was willing to take the lift with him, as he took advantage of the enclosed space to ask for volunteers to join in the shave.

He also organised an educational talk by the Foundation, where a child who had recovered from cancer and was a beneficiary of the foundation shared with Vital officers his story of battling cancer.

“It is important that people are aware of and understand cancer so they can join in giving encouragement and showing support to the patients in their fight against cancer,” Mr Toh says.

And while he is pleased that the donations surpassed the $5,000 target, he also makes it clear that the fundraiser is about more than dollars and cents.

“It’s not the monetary value,” Mr Toh says. “It’s about having the heart to want to do your part. So you find donations coming in between $5 and $500. And these add up.”

    Sep 18, 2012
    Douglas Chew
    Justin Loh
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