In Bernie Henry’s 28 years at Home Hardware’s distribution centre in St. Jacobs, none of his co-workers ever saw him without a beard.
Every so often, Walter Hachborn, co-founder and president of the company, would ask him when he was going to shave. Then some of the younger employees started to tease him about it, asking what it would take to get him to pick up a razor. After 36 years, it was going to have to be something really special.
His wife, Deb, got wind of it at the company Christmas party and the idea for the “fund-razor” was born: a 36-day fundraising campaign to raise money for a good cause.
A lot of causes spring to mind for the Henrys; they do a lot of volunteer work for the local St Vincent de Paul Society, and they’ve raised funds for it in the past. But this time they had a beneficiary in mind that was farther from home and even dearer to their hearts.
Eight years ago, their grandson, Patrick Sarda, was born 10 weeks premature. Complications with his birth resulted in hydrocephalus, an abnormal buildup of fluid in the brain. When he was still six weeks premature and weighed only four pounds, doctors performed brain surgery to insert a shunt to drain the fluid.
That was the first of 14 brain surgeries at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) before he was a year old. Patrick endured many resulting complications plus a bout of meningitis. At one, the little boy couldn’t even roll over, and doctors told his parents he would never walk or talk.
Eight years later, those doctors are delighted to have been proven wrong. Not only does he walk and talk, but Patrick is a year ahead in school, now in Grade 3.
“He defies all the odds,” Deb said. “For all that he’s gone through, he’s an extremely bright little boy.”
Bernie set a goal of raising $5,000 for the Sick Kids Foundation, specifically geared toward CHEO.
“There’s no better cause,” Deb said.
The campaign kicked off Jan. 9 – coincidentally on Patrick’s birthday – and Bernie starting things rolling by donating 10 per cent of his goal. The fundraising team appealed to other Home Hardware employees and their friends and families for donations. By Feb. 13, the end of the 36 days, they had not only surpassed the goal but doubled it, raising $10,000.
“I didn’t think they were going to go ahead with it,” Bernie said. “I’m very pleased with where we ended up.”
So on Friday the 13th, Bernie sat on a stool in front of a crowd of his coworkers while Melissa Turney of First Choice haircutters in Guelph carefully shaved off his beard and mustache.
A few days after the shaving, Deb said she has already adjusted to his new look.
“I was so surprised, within 24 hours there was no difference,” she said. “I’m not missing the beard.”
It’s taking Bernie little longer to get used to it: “I don’t recognize the guy in the mirror yet,” he said.
Bernie hasn’t decided yet whether he’ll go with the clean shaven look or grow the beard back. He said he’ll try shaving for a week and then make the decision.