On Halloween, while everyone was out trick-or-treating, 21-year-old Maddie Newell was in a hair salon doing something very different.
A native of Scarborough, Newell made the decision to shave her head and donate her hair to Shave for the Brave, a foundation out of Halifax helping young adults who are going through cancer treatments. According to cancer statistics released by Statistics Canada, The Public Health Agency of Canada and the Canadian Cancer Society, in the past five years there have been 11,400 cases of cancer in young adults (ages 15–29).
Having always been known for her long wavy hair, Newell felt shaving her head was the right decision.
“People that go through chemotherapy don’t have the option of how short they want their hair, they just lose it,” she said. “So I thought of it as a trade situation where they get my hair, and I take on being bald.”
She also decided to try and make some money for the cause, initially aiming for $100 from friends and family, but she soon took her fundraiser to work with her at a pharmacy on Queen Street East.
Newell started baking goods and asked customers for donations. “People like an incentive,” she said. So far she has raised over $400, but she is still hoping to reach $500.
Although Newell has had lots of support through donations, some people, especially women, didn’t agree with her decision to shave her head, preferring that she just get a “bob cut.”
Those comments never influenced her decision.
“The concepts of beauty are pretty based around hair for women,” Newell said. “I usually get a lot of compliments on my hair. So I thought someone who is struggling with the effects of cancer, they could use my hair, and I could use not having hair.”
Her boyfriend, Jordan Chretien, was the first person she told about her decision to shave her head.
“Maddie is gonna do what Maddie is gonna do — regardless, I was supportive,” Chretien said.
He, like Newell, is also growing out his hair to donate for cancer.
When the time came, two hairdressers at the Beauty Supply Outlet on Queen Street East, worked to braid Newell’s hair into eight strands across her head. Each was well over 10 inches in length and that way, they they could be cut off individually and mailed to the foundation where they can be made into wigs.
As the braids were cut, everyone in the room watched intently at not only the scissors, but also Newell’s face as she watched herself in the mirror.
Her expression? Pure excitement.
With the braids cut and a new love of short hair discovered, Newell’s hair dresser, Gina Edmonds brought out the buzzer.
Edmonds has been cutting Newell’s hair for almost seven years and was supportive of her decision. But she did double-check with her customer before she started to buzz.
“I want the one!” replied Newell, adamant that she wanted no guard on the shaver.
Newell’s brother Marrick, Chretien and even Newell herself took a turn with the buzzer before Edmonds finished the job.
“You’re enjoying that way too much,” a voice in the room said to Newell.
Newell’s mother, Melissa Newell, along with being relieved about the shape of her daughter’s head, was also very supportive.
“I could tell that she had put a lot of thought in to it,” Melissa said. “It’s just going to be one more experience that she adds to her profile.”
After it was finished, and family and friends had taken their photos, Maddie marvelled at her new look in the mirror, with the phrase of the night being “It feels so weird!”
“I think it’s very brave,” Chretien said. “She has responded with a lot more positive attitude [than I thought]. Yeah, she’s bopping her head over there like some kind of goofus.”