MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Right now, 10 brave people are wearing bright pink wigs nearly everywhere they go.
They’re doing it to raise money for a good cause—Komen Wisconsin.
It’s part of Komen’s annual BigWig campaign, and it’s more important this year than ever before, since a number of Komen’s annual fundraisers are cancelled.
Daven Claerbout of Dutchland Plastics in Oostburg is one of this year’s BigWigs.
“What does it do for your scheduling?” he asks a group of employees during a meeting.
It’s a serious meeting, but Claerbout’s pink wig, shirt and face mask make it hard not to smile.
“A lot of excitement, a lot of chuckles, a lot of giggles,” CEO Raka Rao said of Claerbout’s ensemble.
He’s proudly wearing his wig for several weeks. It’s a look he chose himself.
“I don't know, is this as close to a rock star as can be? I don't know,” he said with a smile. He was inspired by Rod Stewart.
Claerbout is certainly a rock star when it comes to raising money. He’s a trained auctioneer, who’s been around the business his whole life. He usually donates his time and skill as the auctioneer at Komen’s More Than Pink Gala,
“Bid a one, buy a one, one now, two, now three, how about 4,” he demonstrated, getting into a cadence.
But with the gala cancelled this year because of Covid, he’s helping in a different way.
“When we were up on the stage, you'd turn around and look and you'd think, boy, those people look goofy,” he said with a laugh, describing BigWigs from years past. “A year later, I'm doing the same thing.”
Komen’s 10 BigWigs are raising money and awareness for the organization. And Claerbout is going big. He started the campaign by asking Executive Director Nikki Panico what was the most any BigWig had ever raised.
“She said, I don't know, I think around $26,000,” Claerbout recalled. “So, I just kind of smiled and thought, OK. Put mine down for $27,000.”
Fortunately, he’s getting a lot of support in his efforts at work. Rao said he is glad Dutchland can be a part of it.
“We're super proud to be partnering with Susan G. Komen Foundation, which is such a powerhouse in driving awareness,” Rao said.
Claerbout’s wife and mother are his inspiration. Both women are breast cancer survivors.
Fellow BigWig, Georgette Retzer, has a similar motivation.
“So, we've been friends for 20 years,” Retzer said, hugging best friend, Linnea Harrington.
“I was young, healthy, didn't have family history,” Harrington said of her breast cancer diagnosis.
She was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer eight years ago, when she was just 34 years old. Retzer was diagnosed with stage one breast cancer last July.
“To me it's just uncanny, how two best friends, in the same breast, and we have completely different journeys,” Retzer said.
Komen Executive Director Nikki Panico said the pandemic has stopped some people from getting their cancer screenings. She said the $75,000 this year’s BigWigs aim to raise is so important in helping people get the screenings and care they need.
“We know the pandemic has played a part in breast cancer, so this fundraiser is absolutely imperative for women right here in Milwaukee, getting diagnosed and getting treated with breast cancer,” Panico said.
Both Claerbout and Retzer said they are getting tremendous support from friends, family and their communities.
“I was just on a zoom call for the first time with my work team and so I wore it for the first time and they were like, hey,” she said with a big laugh.
“The response has been overwhelming,” Claerbout said. “It's been humbling. It's really neat.”
The money raised will go towards helping patients and funding research right here in the Milwaukee area.
Claerbout said he plans to dye his real hair pink when he hit his goal of $27,000.
“You'll see real pink on my head, but not a wig. I'm going to actually dye my hair pink, which I didn't think I'd ever consider doing,” he said.
The BigWig campaign runs through Monday, March 15.
To check their progress, or to make a donation, click here.