Sacrificing his braid in honour of his warrior brothers

By Aryeh Stegenga on May 27 / 2016

[Cancer, Events, Families, News]Comments

“I find it very difficult to see so many people, family and friends go through this battle and not be able to fight with them.”
– Peter Masson

How many of us have felt like this? I have. And if you know someone who’s faced cancer, someone you care about, then you’ve felt it, too. It’s the feeling of helplessness. And it’s what Peter Masson felt when two of his dear friends, Steve Porter and Perry Benoit, were diagnosed with cancer.

It was a familiar feeling for Peter: he’d previously lost his mother and many close relatives to the disease. But he wanted to help those facing cancer, so he decided to raise funds for the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation.

Inspiration for his fundraiser came from Peter’s aboriginal heritage. For over 12 years, he’s had a braided pony tail. “We braid our hair the same way we braid our sweet grass medicine,” he says, “to remind us that it, too, is sacred. Each of the three parts of the braid represent the past, present, and future as well as our mind, body, and spirit. As we walk along on our healing journey, and we braid our hair each day, we take time to reflect on our healing and on mother earth and all she provides.”

While not all aboriginal people choose to grow the braid, Peter had made this choice as a personal commitment to himself, his ancestors, and the creator.

“I decided I would shave my head to raise money for cancer in their honour,” says Peter, speaking of his friends Steve and Perry.

His sacrifice was real.

“My braided pony tail is very important to me; we have gone through many things together.” But Peter was convinced. “This was something that was very important to me, something that is unselfish. I was willing to sacrifice my braid in honour of my warrior brothers.”

Inspired by his commitment, Peter’s brother Gary and his son Jacob joined his pledge to shave their heads.

Their fundraiser took on new meaning and greater emotion when Steve passed away April 2nd of this year. “Normally we do not cut our braid once we start growing it until we lose a family member or someone who meant a lot to us. Then we cut it off to show our loss and respect.”

On Sunday May 1st, Peter, Gary, and Jacob shaved their heads. When they next came to the Cancer Foundation, they presented us with over $3,000—three times the amount Peter had hoped to raise.

“We’re overwhelmed with the generosity that people have shown towards our cause,” says Peter. “It is so remarkable to see people give so much.”

When I asked if he would grow his braid again, Peter said he wouldn’t. “I miss my braid, but in my heart it will always be there, and I am grateful for what it has taught me. I believe I grew it for a reason, and that reason in the end was to help raise money for this cause.”

When Peter dropped by the Cancer Foundation with his son Jacob, their visit was emotional, his words and journey reminding many of us of the people we lost to cancer, and those who are living with it now. But the moment was also full of hope. Alongside donors like you, Peter, Gary, and Jacob, we have the ability to make a difference in the lives of people with cancer. Together, we are no longer helpless. We are stronger, and we are hopeful.

If you would like to support Peter’s cause, you can do so below.
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