THE Leukaemia Foundation's biggest annual fundraiser started with Cathy Mooney's love for her father and frustration with inadequate health facilities.
Ms Mooney's dad, Eric Graydon, was diagnosed with leukemia in 1998. The Lismore resident ended up being treated in Brisbane Royal Hospital for months with little contact with the outside world.
"Dad had a bone marrow transplant and I wanted to ring him for his birthday but there were no cordless phones for patients in that ward," Ms Mooney recalled.
"I thought it was absolutely appalling that patients who were either terminal or seriously ill couldn't even get a phone call from a loved one. I thought, 'Well, I'll raise some money and get some phones for the hospital'."
Ms Mooney and her family got the idea to raise money by shaving their heads from some police fundraisers which worked in a similar way.
"World's Greatest Shave started for the independent normal person who wanted to have a shave," Ms Mooney said.
"Within a couple of weeks I had 67 members of Dad's extended family come together to shave their heads and raise money.
"It was also a sign of solidarity and to stand with Dad in that he was losing his hair and was so helpless."
The first World's Greatest Shave took place in Lismore Square in 1998. More than 200 people participated and $80,000 was raised for Leukaemia Foundation.
Mr Graydon's doctor took Ms Mooney's idea to the next level.
"Dad's hematologist heard about it and said, 'If a little place like Lismore can raise $80,000, what can a nation do?'" Ms Mooney recalled.
World's Greatest Shave has become the Leukaemia Foundation's biggest annual fundraiser, generating about $14m each year. "It's our most important campaign," Leukaemia Foundation's public relations officer Beth Zucker said.
Mr Graydon died in 1999 but Ms Mooney remained a spokesperson for World's Greatest Shave.
- An Australian is diagnosed with leukemia every 46 minutes
- Blood cancer claims more lives than any other cancer
- Leukaemia Foundation's biggest annual fundraiser, World's Greatest Shave, started in Lismore in 1998
- About 125,000 people participate in the event each year
- World's Greatest Shave has raised $120m for blood cancer research and facilities for patients and their families