Losing locks for good

The lobby of Minot Guaranty & Escrow, at 1835-16th St. SW was full of people who all paid $2 at the door Friday at 5 p.m. to watch Desiree Burleson lose her hair.

“That was the most nervous part, the people staring at me. It didn’t bother me to lose my hair,” she said after the haircut.

The melanoma cancer survivor had her hair cut off for a good cause. The hair will go to the Pantene Beautiful Lengths wig program in her coworker’s honor. It takes seven hair donations to make one wig for a chemotherapy patient.

Kim Whitish, a post-closer at Minot Guaranty, already survived melanoma once but when she was diagnosed with breast cancer on Aug. 14, 2013, she became a two-time survivor. Whitish’s husband, Brett, also shaved his head for her on her birthday in December.

Burleson was happy to donate her hair in Whitish’s honor, but the good deed came with a stipulation Minot Guaranty’s Relay for Life team had to raise at least double what they did last year.

“Last year we raised $3,250 so she set our goal at $7,000 for a nice, even number,” Whitish said.

The deadline for that threshold was Whitish’s last day of chemo on March 27. They’ve raised more than enough and the funds continue to come in, including the entry price to watch the haircut.

“This is the first time I’ve ever taken my scarf or my wig off at work,” she said to the media after posing for pictures with Burleson.

“This group of girls is the most amazing blessing I could ever ask for through all of this,” she added. “They are truly my support system. My husband and I, we don’t have family here so these girls are my family.”

And that family continues fundraising year round, with the biggest money draw being two sales runs of Pizza Corner frozen pizzas in November 2013, and then again in March. The sales drew in a total of $4,500. There were other fundraising initiatives ever month, including a “taco in a bag” sales drive which earned $500, a wine and hors d’oeuvre night at Rice Lake which raised $350, and a unique fundraiser where they planted dozens of pink flamingos in the city and on Minot AFB and residents donated money to have the flamingos removed.

“We’re in stiff competition with two other teams and both of those teams raised over $10,000 last year so we look forward to what they do this year,” Whitish said of her 17-member team’s fundraising efforts this year.

The fundraising drives and events will continue throughout the year, with an Easter bake sale planned for the next event.

“Then we’ll probably do one more to see how much we can raise before relay,” she said. “We try to do a fundraiser every month so that we can fundraise throughout the year rather than doing just one huge thing.”

All that hard work will get its payout come June 20 when the 12-hour relay for life event takes place. The event will run from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. beginning with a survivors and caregivers lap, then a Luminaria ceremony at 10 p.m. to remember those who have been lost to cancer. The event culminates in a “Fight Back” ceremony at 7 a.m. to announce all the money that has been raised between the 40 teams in competition.

“The reason it’s an all night event is because cancer never sleeps so neither do we,” Whitish said.