Cam Aitken knows how to turn a few heads.
For the past 15 years, the Esquimalt resident has been growing his long, flowing mane, only receiving a trim once every few months. Nicknamed “Ginger Jesus” by some of the township’s youth, Aitken has become known as the man with the curly, red hair.
“It’s helpful to be really recognizable with youth, then adults who are keeping their eye on their kids know who you are, there’s more recognition,” he said.
Aitken, 31, is director of The Community Youth, an organization that provides youth-related services in the township, including a breakfast program at Esquimalt High, mentoring and taking youth to camp.
The easily recognizable figure shed his image over the weekend, having roughly 16 inches of his hair cut off at the Esquimalt Recreation Centre, as part of a fundraiser for the Esquimalt Teen Centre, Esquimalt Church of the Nazarene and The Community Youth.
At the time of writing, 100 per cent of Aitken’s fundraising goal of $15,000 had been achieved. His stated plan for the donations is $10,000 to The Community Youth and $2,500 each for the Teen Centre and the Church of the Nazarene’s building fund.
Aitken’s decision to grow out his hair started in high school. After shaving his head for a rugby tournament, he decided to go from one extreme to the other. He only recently began toying with the idea of shaving it again and in January started a fundraising campaign for a cause that’s close to his heart.
“There’s a great need in the lives of youth right now, particularly. We see a large need in the area of family; there’s a lot of brokenness in the family,” said Aitken, whose religious beliefs were a big factor in his decision to begin helping youth. “I believe Jesus passionately cares for youth and I wanted to be a part of that passion.”
While he was sad to say goodbye to his mane, he admitted he won’t miss having long hair and the grooming that comes with it. “I think it’s more other people who will miss it, that’s how some people identify me,” he said, laughing.
Aitken’s locks will also be donated to the Canadian Cancer Society to make wigs. Donations can still be made to the youth programs at esquimaltcommunityyouthheadshave.ca.