Sunday, 27 September 2020


Braving the shave in tribute to loved ones

Last Sunday marked Cooks Beach resident, Donna Bale’s 10th Mother’s Day without her mum, Barbara, who died after a long battle with cancer.

Despite the passage of time, it still hurts. Dad, John Brodie - owner of the Cooks Beach Store - is also still fighting his cancer fight, eight years after first being diagnosed.

At the same time, Covid-19 restrictions have prevented Donna’s good friend and Cooks Beach Volunteer Fire Brigade member, Henry Hurley, being with his mother, Jackie, during her cancer journey, including a mastectomy just last month.

Inspired by their loved ones, Donna and Henry have taken on their own challenge - losing their hair as winter begins to bite - in a bid to raise awareness and funds for cancer research.

“I saw a post about it on Facebook and I just decided yes, I’m going to do that,” says Donna, referring to the Brave the Shave campaign which sees Kiwis from all over the central North Island become “everyday heroes” by braving the hairdresser’s clippers to support the Waikato/Bay of Plenty Cancer Society. “I phoned Henry and told him what I was doing and straight away he said he would do it with me. I’ve had a shoulder injury for the past three weeks or so and it was really bothering me, and then I just thought you know what, there are a lot of people out there suffering much worse than me and I really should try and do something positive.”

While it would be difficult to find someone who has not been touched by cancer in some way, for Donna’s family the disease has been particularly cruel and in her own words “heart wrenching.” Losing her mother to bowel cancer in February 2010 was devastating, but there was more to come. “In the past five years, I have lost my best friend, my father-in-law, my sister-in-law and a very close family friend,” Donna says.

All the while dad, John, has been bravely riding a cancer rollercoaster that continues to twist and turn. “Dad has been battling since 2012 when he found out he had prostate cancer,” Donna says. “Then in 2017, he got kidney cancer and now that cancer has spread to his lungs. But he is okay, he is on chemo pills at the moment and is doing well thankfully.”

Henry says not being able to go the hospital when his mum had her operation was very difficult. “She’s living in Coroglen with my stepdad and my brother who have been doing a great job looking after her, but is has been awful not being able to visit her over the past few weeks,” he says.

While the pair had wondered if the timing was right to try fundraising given the impact of coronavirus, they have been overwhelmed with the level of support. “I didn’t want to look for too much, it’s a hard time for many people, so I thought $500 would be a good target,” says Donna.

As of last Sunday, almost $1,800 had been donated via the Brave the Shave website, while shoppers at the Cooks Beach Store have also been giving generously to a collection tin. “It’s been unbelievable, so many locals and visitors have been incredibly generous, as well as our friends and family,” Donna says. “We are so grateful to everyone.”

Amazingly, this is the second time Donna and Henry will lose their locks in honour of their loved ones. “We did it about 15 years ago, when Mum first started losing her hair due to chemo, I was still in the fire brigade then and about 10 of us did it to support her,” Donna says. Despite their previous experience, both are a little anxious about the aftermath of the shave, which is scheduled for 28 June.

“Mostly I’m just worried about the cold - last time we did it, it was summer,” Henry laughs. Donna has already thought of that. “I went online yesterday and ordered a hat,” she says. “I am nervous though. I was in the shower the other day washing my hair and then I started thinking that soon it won’t be there to wash!”

Apart from suggesting it was probably a silly time of the year for losing his hair, Henry says his fellow crewmembers at the fire bridge have been backing him 100 per cent. “We have a great bunch of guys and girls, young and old, and we are pretty close-knit team, we really do support each other,” he says.

The plan on shave day is for a community event outside the Cooks Beach Store where Donna’s daughter, Crystal Bale of Mint Hair Salon in Whitianga, will take charge. However, details will be confirmed when more is known about what coronavirus restrictions will be in place at that time. In the meantime, donations can be made at

Pictured: Henry Hurley and Donna Bale from Cooks Beach who will “Brave the Shave” on 28 June to raise funds for the Waikato/Bay of Plenty Cancer Society.


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