Morgan Tait is the NZ Herald's police reporter.

Rachel to lose locks in memory of aunt

The belly-button length hair of a brave Napier schoolgirl will meet its fate this month, when Rachel Bird shaves her head for cancer research.

Rachel's aunt, Linda Akers, died from breast cancer last year and the Sacred Heart College Year 12 student said she wants to reduce the chance of another family going through the ordeal.

Mrs Akers was a top amateur golfer in the Hawke's Bay-Poverty Bay area, and married to former All White player Marty Akers. They have two children, Brooke and Jorge.

"Everyone was devastated, because cancer takes away the best of you," Rachel said. "She had been battling breast cancer for quite a while, when she got diagnosed they said she had about a year, but she fought it for about five years, so she was really strong to do that.

"I have been looking to do something for her, because there is no cure for cancer, this money that comes in goes towards finding a cure."

Rachel, who has never had her hair cut short, said she was "pretty nervous, but looking forward to it at the same time".

"I have had a lot of support from friends, family and people I know or my family knows and a lot of girls from school. The teachers and students at school have been really supportive, too."

She has already doubled her goal of raising $1000, thanks in part to a video she made promoting her cause.

"I made a video which I put on YouTube and Facebook and after I put that up I got $1000 in one week," Rachel said.

New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation fundraising development executive Fay Holahan had been supporting Rachel and would use the video as an example for other fundraisers.

"I asked if we can use it in the future if someone else is doing something similar and needs ideas," she said.

Mrs Holahan said Rachel's money would be used towards awareness campaigns, education and research grants.

The commitment of a 16-year-old was outstanding, she said.

"It's fantastic and we really appreciate it, not many people at the age of 16 are wanting to shave off their hair. We do get school groups and things that raise a couple of hundred dollars, but not really to this extent."

The shave would take place at Sacred Heart College before the end of the term.

Donate at and watch Rachel's fundraising video at

- Hawkes Bay Today

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