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News posted on Friday 5th August, 2022

Jo’s good hair day: how a teacher’s close shave raised $14.5k

Moses shaves Jo's head

St Andrew’s College Commerce teacher, Jo Bigford-Fleming was 48 when she decided she wanted to do something big for her 50th birthday. She told her husband, Paralympian #122 Wayne Fleming, she wanted to shave her head and raise money for a good cause.

“I’ve been dyeing my hair for half my life. Why not get rid of it rather than growing it out?” Jo laughs. “I decided to use it as an opportunity to do something good.”

Jo decided to raise money for two causes close to her heart: Paralympics New Zealand and the Breast Cancer Foundation. The Breast Cancer Foundation because breast cancer “has affected far too many people in my life”, and Paralympics New Zealand because of her desire for equity between Paralympic and Olympic athletes.

The Paralympics New Zealand vision “through Para sport, lives will be transformed” is on Jo’s fundraising page on the online fundraising platform Givealitte. She knows all about the transformative power of Para sport through her husband Wayne, who represented New Zealand in Wheelchair tennis in the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games. Paralympian Caitlin Dore also attended St Andrew’s College. Jo explains:

“My best friend Becky in the UK broke her neck at 18. It was my introduction to paraplegic care. I met Wayne 12 years ago. He doesn’t let his disability get in the way. He never lets it stop him. He has always done sport. He’s got a handcycle and off he goes. He took to Wheelchair basketball and Wheelchair tennis. Through the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games and other tournaments around the world his disability didn’t stop him. Sure, there are more things to consider, but he never lets it stop him.”

Initially, Jo wasn’t sure how her employer St Andrew’s College would feel about her shaving her head, but she needn’t have worried. They thought it was a fantastic idea.

“I told the school in October last year. I wasn’t sure how they would feel. I wanted to do a theme day around the two charities. It went on the school calendar from the start of the year.”

Jo’s initiative caught the attention of her community too. The breadth of the support she received blew her away.

“Everybody has supported me. It’s been incredible. Even people I don’t know. They couldn’t believe I was going to do it!”

Jo didn’t stop there. With the help of a friend, she gained new skills in social media promoting her Givealittle page and sharing updates as the big day approached. Friends helped share the news, and the school put it in their weekly newsletter too.

For the big day, St Andrew’s College held a pink and black theme day where students were encouraged to wear these colours in support of the two charities. To add a competitive edge to the theme day donations, the tutor group in each year group that raised the most were able to nominate a student to cut off a ponytail from Jo’s head before the shaving commenced – a move that inspired many students to “get stuck in”!

“I had a lot of hair to cut off,” laughs Jo. “The seniors went on the page and donated. You could just see it going up.”

Jo laughs after having her head shaved. Students in background.
Jo Bigford-Fleming on the day of the big shave.

A last minute change of plan got even more students behind the big shave. Originally, Jo’s hairdresser was going to do the haircut. But when she came down with COVID on the Sunday beforehand, Jo knew who she was going to ask next.

“Moses Armstrong-Ravula is a Year 13 Business Studies student. I knew Moses does haircutting. So I asked him and he said ‘Awww, yeh.’”

Jo drew the line at some of the students’ requests though.

“They wanted him to do a wee design on the back! No thank you! Just straight number one all over. And Moses did an amazing job in front of what turned out to be a big crowd. He was so gentle and so professional. He took such care.”

In total, Jo raised nearly fourteen and a half thousand dollars for her two chosen causes. Her genius for fundraising and her desire for equity will make a difference to Para athletes on the pathway to the next Paralympic Games in Paris in 2024. Her generosity made a big impression on everyone at Paralympics New Zealand.

When we asked Jo what she would like to tell someone who is dreaming of being a Paralympian one day, she said:

“Go and give it a go. You could find a new passion. Accessibility could make getting there harder, but don’t let it stop you. Ask people for help. Just do it.”

Inspired by Jo’s close shave?

Find out how you could get involved and support Paralympics New Zealand.

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