The equestrian world is awash with charity pledges to raise money in memory of Hannah Francis, the young event rider who died of cancer on Monday (1 August). And a theme of riders saying farewell to their hair has started to emerge.
Zara Tindall will shave commentator Spencer Sturmey’s head at Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials (8-11 September) in aid of Wilberry Wonder Pony, the charity Hannah set up.
Spencer said: “Hannah was an inspiration to all of us in the way that she dealt with her illness and her determination to live her life to the full.
“Hannah loved her hair – Wilberry Wonder Pony was originally set up to raise money to buy her her first wig – and I love my hair, so it seemed an appropriate way to remember her and raise money.
“I hope that we can continue to build momentum behind Wilberry Wonder Pony, which funds bone cancer research and grants wishes to those with horsey dreams, and keep Hannah’s memory alive. Zara will shave my hair off live on TV during the Event Rider Masters final leg at Blenheim on Sunday 11 September.
“In less than 12hr we have raised nearly £700 and I hope we can raise a lot more in the month before Blenheim.”
Blenheim’s event director Mandy Hervieu said: “Zara and Spencer are terrific supporters of Blenheim and this is a fantastic idea to raise money for Wilberry Wonder Pony. Hannah’s story has deeply touched all of us and we already have several initiatives planned in her memory, which we are finalising – this is a great addition.”
Spencer added that a group of event riders will undertake a charity skydive in Hannah’s memory at the end of the season.
“More details will be announced soon, but rather a lot of people are at some ‘gymkhana’ in Rio at the moment so we’ll wait until they get back,” he said.
To donate to Spencer’s cause, visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/spencer-sturmey.
Dressage rider Katie Johnston’s daughter, Jessica, is to cut off her very long hair and donate it to the Little Prince’s Trust, who make wigs out of donated hair for young people who have lost their hair through chemotherapy. She is also raising funds to donate to Wilberry Wonder Pony at the same time.
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And hunt supporter Yvonne Heath will have her head shaved by Emma Goffe, wife of Warwickshire huntsman Will Goffe, at the Warwickshire Hunt open day on 7 August to raise money for Wilberry Wonder Pony as well.
“I saw Hannah’s story on Facebook and followed her progress,” said Yvonne. “It’s such a brilliant cause and really struck a chord with me – I’ve lost friends and family members to cancer, and my son Joshua is the same age as Hannah was.
“I’m not so worried about being bald, but all my life I have hidden my ears – I’m quite self-conscious about them – so exposing them is quite a big deal for me! I’ve raised more than £500 so far and really hope to make it £1,000 by next Sunday.”