March 6, 2014 at 2:40 PM ET
What started as a "silly" dare between a chief executive officer and his employee has turned into a $2.1 million donation for cancer research.
On Monday, 428 employees of a Massachusetts company had their heads, beards or both shorn to raise money for charity. The participants included 36 women, nearly half of whom had their hair completely shaved off. Some donated their tresses to Locks of Love.
“There are a lot of bald people around the office right now, and everyone is complaining about how cold they are,” Dainya Sylvester, who helped organize the fundraiser for Granite Telecommunications, said with a laugh Thursday.
The idea started as a joke. Chief executive Rob Hale last month had dared one of his employees to shave off his long, ZZ Top-style beard in exchange for a company donation to charity. The employee accepted the deal, and that’s when things started getting a little (less) hairy.
Hale and the worker agreed that the donation would go to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Word spread and dozens of other employees wanted in on the deal. Many of them had been touched by cancer and jumped at the chance to raise money for research, Sylvester said.
Hale, whose father had died from pancreatic cancer six years ago, offered to donate $1,000 a head if 100 people got involved. He then increased his offer to $2,000 per person if they could double the participants. By the time the numbers climbed toward 300, Hale’s mother got involved. By Monday morning, the bounty was set at $5,000 a participant — $1,000 from the company and $2,000 each from Hale and his mother.
On Monday morning, a team of 19 barbers who donated their services started cutting hair in the Granite headquarters' lobby in Quincy, Mass., where 350 employees were shaved or got their locks lopped off. Other employees participated from Granite's branches in Rhode Island, New York, Georgia and Florida.
“The day was incredible," Hale said, expressing pride in his employees for stepping up the way they did. "A silly challenge erupted into a powerful experience in three short weeks."