Cole Keffer chops his famous curls for charity

Rugby star raises more than $10,000 with one long-overdue haircut

North Vancouver’s Cole Keffer has remained cool under pressure while playing many sports at an elite level, but he readily admits he was rattled by a new opponent Sunday night.

“I was freaking out,” he says. “I didn’t know what to do with myself – pacing around the clubhouse, talking to everyone. I couldn’t stand still, couldn’t sit still. I was nervous. Nervous, to say the least.”

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So what was it that rattled this multi-sport star who has won provincial titles in soccer, national titles in rugby, even a world title in ultimate Frisbee? It was, of course, a pair of scissors and an electric razor.

On Sunday night Keffer chopped off some of the most famous locks on the North Shore sports scene, finally losing the golden curls that made him stand out on any field of play almost as much as his dazzling athletic prowess.

It was for a good cause – he raised more than $10,000 for charity – but that doesn’t mean it was easy.

“I’ve never had short hair before,” he says, adding that right from birth his parents loved his curly blond hair and mostly left it alone. “They never wanted to cut it. Then I liked it, so it just became sort of a thing – I was going to have long hair.”

As Keffer entered the sports world it became clear that kid with the curls could really play, no matter what the game. At Sutherland secondary he led the soccer team to a provincial title, played point guard for the basketball team and powered their dominant ultimate program. His biggest passion is rugby, a sport that he has played nationally and internationally, most recently teaming with fellow North Shore standouts Elias Ergas, Connor Weyell, and Nick Allen to help the UBC Thunderbirds win the National University Sevens Championship for the first time in team history earlier this month.

Whatever field he was playing on, the man that friends affectionately called ‘Goldilocks’ was always easy to spot.

“It helps to stand out from a crowd a little bit,” Keffer says about the power he drew from his hair. “I think it was my abilities in sport that got me picked for teams and stuff, but it helps to be noticed in tryouts, to be noticed in a crowd almost immediately for your hair. Then what you do after you get noticed – well that’s up to you. But you still need to get noticed. And if you get noticed quickly, it’s probably more beneficial than not.”

In recent months, however, the thought of chopping off the locks for charity crept into Keffer’s mind. He tried to shake it off but the thought kept coming back. The plan was crystallized when a young woman who also went to Sutherland secondary died of cancer earlier this year. Keffer says he didn’t know Chloe Kurney well, but her story inspired him to act. 

“That was kind of the trigger,” he says. “It was like, OK, I have the ability to do something, I think I have the connections to make something good happen and raise a lot of money. I need to do this.”

On Sunday night in front of a packed house at UBC’s Gerald McGavin Rugby Centre, Keffer’s mother and grandmother each took a small curl before his sister stepped up to make the biggest chop. Three long ponytails came off, all being donated to Wigs for Kids BC.

“It didn’t feel real until my sister cut off the first big ponytail for donation,” says Keffer. “When I touched my head I knew this was real, there was no going back. I have short hair now.”

Cole Keffer chops his famous curls for charity_2
Clippers cause quite a shock for Cole Keffer, who has had long hair since he was a baby. photo Wilson Wong/UBC

The visual results have left Keffer feeling a bit stunned. “It gives me a little shock every time I walk past a mirror or catch my reflection in the glass.”

Much more stunning, however, has been the response from the community, says Keffer, who chose the Childhood Cancer Canada Foundation as his charity.

 “Originally when I set my goal at $10,000 I was kind of just shooting for the stars,” he says. “People have known me for my long hair for so long, hopefully that would get people to donate.”

As of Tuesday he’d raised more than $10,600.

“I’m shocked,” he says. It seems he wasn’t the only one who valued those beautiful curls.

The donation page is still open for anyone else who wants to chip in. For more information visit Keffer's page at childhoodcancer.ca.

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