Small in stature, big in heart

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Eight-year-old and family remember their friend, ‘Big Jon’

Grand Falls-Windsor — It’s amazing what children can do. Last year, seven-year-old Sammie Wasano was looking through a newspaper and came across an ad for the “Hair Massacure,” a fundraiser that encourages individuals to dye their hair pink in support of a cure for cancer.

He decided he was going to do it on behalf of his one of his mother’s best friends, Jonathon King, Lynda and Wayne King’s son of Grand Falls-Windsor, who passed away Jan. 26, 1997, of leukemia.

This year, Sammie’s family got involved. Sammie, his mother, Grand Falls-Windsor native Connie Wasano (Laite), five-year-old sister Charlie and aunt Julie Laite, who is also a native of Grand Falls-Windsor, formed a team, “Big Jon,” which they entered into the 10th anniversary of Hair Massacure.

The family, who live in Edmonton, Alta., went pink to remember Big Jon, and raise money for Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation and the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Northern Alberta, and Ronald McDonald Foundation of Northern Alberta.

Team Big Jon brought in more than $1,000 to the Hair Massacure “Take It All Off” event Feb. 3 at the West Edmonton Mall. That’s where they shave off their bright pink locks.

“We did really good,” Wasano said, adding a lot of the money came from her hometown of Grand Falls-Windsor.

“Jon’s parents and family … a lot of people that knew Jon gave money,” Wasano said.

Donations also came from everywhere from New York to Arizona and all across Canada, she said.

The event itself was amazing, Wasano said.

“Last year we went later during the day, but this year I got off work early and took the kids out of school and we all went early,” Wasano said. “They had a lot more people this year. It was really nice.”

The memories of her friend Jon came flooding back during the event.

“It was really funny because as I’m looking around at all these people I am thinking, if he was here, he would do more laughing at anyone than I could,” Wasano said.

“We had a volunteer ask about our team name and when we told him our story, he said, ‘He must have been a really special guy.’ I said, ‘You have no idea. He is our angel now.’”

And Sammie is now rocking a Mohawk — and a bright pink one at that — after getting some of his hair shaved off at the event.

“As we were leaving we stopped and looked at the sea of pink-haired people, Sammie looked up and said ‘mama, Jon would be proud!’” Wasano said. “I hugged him and Charlie and said, ‘I’m sure he is.’ Sammie says he feels really proud of himself because he’s helping the sick children. Charlie said, ‘Mama there’s pink everywhere!’”

And memories came back to her from people who were donating money as well.

“It was nice because when people sent me money, a lot of people just did an email transfer and everyone put little messages on it or little things that they remembered about them, which was nice.”

Sammie and Charlie are already planning for next year, Wasano said.

“I was so close to sitting down and getting my head shaved this year, but my sister said, ‘No, the bet was next year, $2,000, we shave our heads.’ I don’t think next year it will be a problem. If I tell everyone I am going to shave my head we’ll definitely get the $2,000.”

As soon as the next campaign starts up again, the family said they are going to start fundraising again. And next year, expect to see some pink hair in Grand Falls-Windsor, especially on Denise MacKenzie and George Walsh.

“We have two or three friends of his from home that next year are going to help us with it,” Wasano said. “They said they will sign up, raise money and go pink with us, from home.”

The Advertiser

Organizations: Big Jon, Hospital Foundation, Wish Foundation Ronald McDonald Foundation of Northern Alberta.Team Big Jon Take It All

Geographic location: Grand Falls-Windsor, Grand Falls, Edmonton Stollery Children Alberta New York Arizona Canada

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