How to Change the World in 5 Easy Steps with Balding for Dollars’ founder Dave Clark

Dave Clark is the organiser behind some of Whistler’s most significant fundraising events – the Balding for Dollars bash, the Dusty BBQ Championships Tasting Series, SWELL and the Whistler Half Marathon.

I interviewed him recently for an article about the sold-out-in-record-time Whistler Half Marathon and we got a little side-tracked. Here’s what I learned about Accidental Awesomeness from our long-and-winding conversation. It all began with a good head-shaving.

1. Do not look askance at a man with a handlebar moustache.

In 2002, I was working at the mountain. I saw a Balding for Dollars event in Squamish and thought, maybe I can get a couple friends on this… I mean, kids with cancer? It’s not what being a child is meant to be about. It’s so intrinsically wrong. So I thought, I’m going to go and shave my head and raise a hundred bucks. I put a note in the employee newsletter, thinking I could rally a few other people to get involved, we could all raise $100.  Then Mike Varrin phoned. He said, “I don’t think we’ve ever met before, but I’ve got this bad ass moustache, and I want to shave your head, and anyone else’s, in the bar.”

2. The universe responds to positive juju.

It wasn’t quite what Clark was planning. And it meant having to relinquish a degree of control over the program. But he went with the flow. The Hairfarmers were playing, the bar was packed, and a couple of guys in the corner getting their heads shaved turned into a movement. Guitar Doug and Grateful Greg shaved their decade-old beards. “People were like, ‘Where can I give my money?’ And we raised $6500. And that’s how it all got rolling. The next winter, Dusty’s called and said, ‘Do you want to do this fundraising thing at the BBQ Championships?'”

3. Your weakness is your strength.

Dave Clark’s vulnerability is his family’s battle with Inflammatory Bowel Disease. They could struggle in silence and shame, as many do. Or they could own it, claim it, try and make a difference. In August 2002, Taster passes were sold for the Canadian BBQ Championships, with proceeds benefiting the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada, the organisation Clark believes is best positioned to find a cure for IBD in his lifetime. Last August alone, the sale of taster passes raised $9455. In October, Dave was recognised by the Foundation for his fundraising efforts, which have seen the Whistler Friends raise more than a quarter of a million dollars, and declared an Unsung Hero.

4. Listen up.

The #1 thing, if I had to put a sticky note on my laptop as a reminder of the key learning I’ve taken away from organising events, is to LISTEN. Listen to your partners, volunteers, athletes, the community, and ultimately collaborate with them to make it the best it can possibly be. If you surround yourself by people who are very good at what they do, and passionate, you’ll achieve great things.

5. Passion + People is a winning combination. 

I don’t think there’s anything stronger than your own personal convictions, and it’s proven over and over again. And a community of passionate people. Whether that’s two or six people, it just takes more than one person, with a shared passion, and a willingness to do things outside the box, to have the agility to say, hmm, that’s not what I was thinking, but we could chanage up the plan.

There’s no just-add-water formula for greatness. But Dave’s recipe strikes me as a pretty solid formula: take genuine passion, informed by your own vulnerability and hope, and put it out in the world to mix it up amongst good people. Then, don’t be surprised if help comes your way, in shapes and forms that you’re least expecting…

The 10th annual Whistler Balding for Dollars is just around the corner. The GLC’s Ultimate Hair-Farming Apres takes it down to bare skin for the BC Children’s Hospital, Saturday March 24 2012. Over the last decade, $153,000 has been raised by the Whistler event, in support of kids in Vancouver’s oncology wards.

40 days is a good amount of time to grow some hair and garner some pledges… don’t you think?

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