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Bald for a cause

Mike Lavin reacts when feeling his head after getting it shaved Wednesday at the Hastings Area YMCA. Lavin challenged his employees to donate more than $9,500 to the Y Partners Fund. The employees stepped up, donated more than $11,000, and Lavin lost the bet and his hair.

The challenge was simple.

If staff members at the Hastings Area YMCA could donate more than $9,500 to the Y Partners Program, their boss would shave his head.

Apparently, those staff members thought their boss should have a new hairstyle.

Employees and volunteers donated $11,063 and last week, Mike Lavin lost his hair.

Way back in high school some 22 years ago, Lavin settled on a hairstyle. And for the past 22 years, nothing changed with his hair. There was a lot of gel and, well, the look was dated.

"Basically, I've had the same hair style since 1987 -- you gotta keep what works," he said with a laugh.

Over the years, Lavin has put challenges like this one out there, and each year he has seemed to narrowly escape losing his hair. When he increased his staff's goal for this drive, he figured he was safe.

"As it turned out," he said, "the staff really responded to the need in the community. I was thrilled to see how they responded.

"They opened up their own resources and contributed. I was really blown away. It was a pretty lofty goal I threw out there. I was really proud of them."

Staff members gathered in the YMCA lobby last Wednesday evening for the official hair-trimming ceremony. Lavin's family members arrived with shirts bearing sayings like "Bald rocks" and "Bald is beautiful."

The whole ceremony took about 15 minutes, and Lavin emerged with a totally new look.

"It'll take some time to get used to it," he said.

About the program

The Y Partners Program offers YMCA memberships and programs for people who wouldn't otherwise be able to afford them.

When Sarah Larsen, the member experience director, and the staff put together their 2009 budget last year, they figured there would be a need for about 100 memberships. But with the poor economy and job losses, that need tripled. Factor in the number of families who also requested assistance for swimming lessons and the other YMCA programs, and more than 300 families sought assistance.

"The need is definitely out there this year," Larsen said.

Current and past members of the YMCA board of directors also stepped up this year, donating $14,000 to the Y Partners Program. Still, the Hastings Area YMCA will need almost $40,000 in donations to reach its goal of $64,500 for the program. A community campaign to solicit those funds will begin in January.

All the money raised at the Hastings Area YMCA stays in the Hastings area, Larsen said.