Thursday, October 19, 2017

Inspired by his mother's illness, Royal Vale student launches hair-raising campaign that supports two causes at once

After watching a video on Facebook a couple years ago about a boy donating his locks to cancer patients in need of high-quality wigs, a young Côte St. Luc resident decided to take that initiative a step further.

“Everybody cuts their hair for cancer,” said Oren Sendel with a smile that never seems to fade from his face. “I wanted to do more.”

When he started growing out his hair, Oren had a buzz cut. Now weeks away from his 13th birthday, he has long, wavy hair that reaches the middle of his back and curtains his face like a lion’s mane. Small for his age, but giant in heart, Oren is looking to help two causes at once.

Oren has grown up watching his mother, Laurie Sendel, struggle with Multiple sclerosis (MS), a potentially disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord. To honour her struggle, Oren is not only donating his locks to a group that makes free, human-hair wigs for cancer patients, he is looking for sponsors to support his cause by donating money to the Montreal Neurological Hospital in the care of the Multiple Sclerosis Clinic.

“An account will be set up and the funds will go towards making some dark days a little brighter for those who need it,” he writes on his website that he launched in mid-October — one month before he plans to snip off all his hair. “The money can be used to pay for a taxi on a day when a patient is exhausted or to buy a cane for someone who needs one.  It can also be used to offset the cost of the medicines needed as they are very expensive.  I trust that the hospital will know where the money is most needed.”

Laurie Sendel said Oren, her youngest of three children, has not let go of his mission and that has impressed the entire family. At first, people were asking why he wasn’t cutting his hair, but, as soon as they heard the reasoning, they have been supporting him ever since. So far, about $200 has come in from friends and family, but Oren is hoping to earn as much as possible.

Oren often keeps his hair tied back, leaving his vision clear for football practice, biking around his neighbourhood and his studies at Royal Vale School. He plans to cut it in time for his bar mitzvah, but, before that, he is asking people to spread the word about his fundraising mission.

“My mom has MS and I wanted to help,” he said. “Everyone always needs help, I guess, and somebody needs to do it.”

Laurie Sendel said she is proud of her son not just as his mother, but as an MS patient.

“It’s taking something that is a little bit negative in our lives and giving it such a positive feel,” she said. “Oren surprises us a lot, so I wasn’t shocked when he came up with this idea. I was very impressed. What I was surprised with is it has taken him such a long time to grow his hair and, throughout this journey, he has never let go of that idea. He has never let go of the idea that he is going to donate his hair and help people with MS.”

Below is a video of my interview with Oren and his mother. Be sure to check out his website and donate:

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