Ardgour teenager’s charity head-shave raises thousands

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When teenager Katie Connolly announced she wanted to have her long tresses shorn to raise money for the charity which was funding research into brain tumours like the one suffered by her dad, the initial target was £500.

So everyone was staggered last week when the Brain Tumour Charity benefited to the tune of nearly 20 times that amount thanks to the 13-year-old from North Corran.

It was back in 2015 that Katie’s dad, Ally, a freelance outdoors activities instructor, was diagnosed with a brain tumour and went through an operation and then treatment throughout the course of the following year.

However, the results of a recent six-monthly MRI scan revealed that Ally’s tumour had reappeared, and he was placed back on chemotherapy.

Ally says that after Katie, the youngest of his two daughters,  decided she wanted to have her head shaved to raise money for the charity, her family tried to dissuade her.

‘Katie had been talking about doing a head shave for a while and we had tried to put her off – showing her pictures of people like Brittany Spears and Sinead O’Connor after they’d had their hair cut off,’ Ally told us with a laugh. ‘But she is as stubborn as her mother.’

Once it was agreed Katie could do ‘The Big Shave’ fund-raiser, her mum, Jess, set up a Facebook page with details.

‘We had hoped it might raising £500 for the charity. However, it has now raised over £8,800 and with gift aid added it should be around £11,000 so far,’ said Ally last week.

He says the family wanted to generate publicity about Katie’s efforts for three reasons – to highlight the ‘awesomeness’ of Katie to make such a brave decision and the generosity of everyone who donated; to shine a spotlight on the great work the Brain Tumour Charity and to ensure publicity about the symptoms of Ally’s condition before he was diagnosed in order that other people may be helped earlier.

‘After Jess put the appeal on Facebook it just grew arms and legs. Everyone is now over the moon with the amount raised – we just can’t believe it,’ Ally explained, adding that donations had ranged from £4 to  an amazingly generous one of £750 from one couple.

Ally is clearly very proud of his daughter: ‘Of course, I’m very proud of her – we all are – it’s a fantastic effort.’

‘We had to keep changing the total we were hoping to raise because so many people kept donating – it’s been so well supported,’ added Katie.

It was an epileptic seizure in 2015 after months of strange smells and tastes, that led doctors to diagnose 39-year-old Ally’s problem as a brain tumour.

‘ I was practically living at the Beatson [cancer centre] in Glasgow for all that plus over six weeks of radiotherapy,’ said Ally.

Then it was a round of MRI scans every three months to check for any signs of the tumour, which then changed to every six months.

And it was one of these six-monthly scans in September that detected a tiny nodule just half a centimetre in length, meaning Ally needs more chemotherapy.

With dad and daughter now sporting similar close-cropped hairdos, Ardnamurchan High pupil Katie says she was happy for hairdresser Debbie Cox to come out to her home and relieve her of the long locks she had been growing for some time.

‘I don’t mind having it all cut off as it for a very good cause and at least I have seven hats to keep my head warm!’ she laughed.

Katie says school friends at Ardnamurchan High have also all been supportive and full of admiration for her efforts.

‘Everyone was wanting to touch my head afterwards,’ joked Katie, who donated her hair to the Little Princess Trust which provides real hair wigs for young people who have lost their hair due to cancer.

Katie Grier, west coast representative for Brain Tumour Charity, was also present  for The Big Shave, afterwards presenting Katie with a special giant ‘thank you’ cookie.

Ms Grier told us: ‘It is absolutely fantastic what Katie has done. She smiled throughout the whole thing – she was just so determined to do this.

‘To put it in context, the amount Katie had raised by the time she had her hair cut off was enough to fund a full 35 days of research into brain tumours. It is simply an amazing effort.’

To donate to Katie’s fantastic fundraising appeal go to: donate/260543197941236/


Posted by Ally Jess Connolly on Friday, 30 November 2018