Ely artist loses his ‘Santa beard’ to raise hundreds for charity close to his heart
- Credit: Archant
An Ely artist who has almost died four times and was once homeless raised hundreds of pounds for charity by having his ‘Santa beard’ shaved off.
Ian McKendrick, who is recovering from a quadruple heart bypass, decided to grow his beard to raise funds for Child Bereavement UK after badly cutting himself whilst shaving in May this year. He had already raised more than £300 ahead of the shave, at The Minster Tavern, on Thursday December 28.
“Due to my heart medication the cut wouldn’t heal so my doctor advised I just stopped shaving until it did,” he said.
“However, I hadn’t realised that my stubble was grey, so I jokingly said, ‘maybe I ought to grow this into a beard for Christmas and shave it off to raise funds for charity’.
“Christmas is here and my beard is now big enough to hide a badger in it.
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“Since May I’ve been telling everyone about what I’m doing, I’ve put up posters all around Ely and shared my story on Facebook.”
Ian chose to raise money for Child Bereavement UK because it’s a charity that’s close to his heart.
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“I lost my father just a few months before I was born, and I lost my stepfather at 13 to cancer.
“No child should have to go through what I did so I’m pleased to give this charity my full support.
“Just telling my story to locals over the past seven months has helped to raise the profile of this wonderful charity and the amazing support it provides to families and their children. This event should help raise it even more.”
Visit https://childbereavementuk.org/ for more information about the charity.
Local celebrity barber Tony Milan performed the shave using a traditional cut-throat razor and hot towels.
Santa brought along his little helper dog Lola - a short legged Jack Russel terrier – on the night. There were plenty of opportunities for photos to be taken with Santa and Lola before the shave, and after, when Santa was dressed ready to depart for his holiday wearing his Hawaiian T shirt.
Mike Rouse, who was at the shave, said: “Great support and friendship for him from the Minster Tavern and the regulars. A really heartwarming story for this time of the year and great to see a real barber in Tony from Milan Barbers.”
Ian McKendrick’s story: ‘Everyone looks out for each other in Ely’
After suffering a heart attack four and a half years ago, Ian underwent a series of heart operations at Papworth Hospital.
“Every time you have an operation your life is under threat,” he said.
Soon after, he became homeless – but luckily his friend, Chris Eadon, of Bottisham took him under his wing.
“It was while I was going through my therapy that I took up drawing. I hadn’t realised I could draw before that.
“Two years ago I had another hear attack and needed a quadruple heart bypass.
“Where the doctors cut my sternum I found it really difficult to draw conventionally. That was when another friend brought me an iPad pencil.”
Since then, Ian’s been working on a style of drawing called hyperrealism. Having built up a body of work that he’s now able to sell as a professional artist, Ian has been accepted onto a start-up business programme.
He said the Ely community have been fantastic in supporting him, too.
“The team at Ely Job Centre have been fantastic, they are like saints. They have done so much to help.
“And Ely, in general, has been the most amazing place. Everyone has been so supportive of me – even total strangers. It’s quite surreal.
“The day after I got home from having the quadruple heart bypass, I had people knocking at my door offering to take my dog Lola out for a walk, or to take me shopping.
“Someone I never knew, a 19-year-old man, invited me round for a dinner that day with his family too. He knew of my dog and I.
“Ely Cathedral has been great, as well. They’ve given Lola her own dog pass so she can come to the cathedral when I’m there drawing – because she has separation anxiety.”
On Boxing Day, Ian was invited for dinner with a lady who is a regular at The Minster Tavern.
“She just said ‘if you’re not doing anything, why don’t you pop down and see me’. We had dinner, watched films and I’ve met a whole new family of people – that’s what’s lovely about Ely.
“Although we have the facilities of a city, Ely has the culture of a village because everyone looks out for each other.”