John O’Brien ditches his razor for dementia research


In 2016 John O’Brien made a personal vow to not cut or shave his hair and beard for 1000 days and to donate $10 to the AADRF every day he kept this vow. He is now halfway through his challenge and has raised over $5000 from his own and others contributions.

Since 2003, John has been working fly in, fly out from Papua New Guinea. In his very first week working at PNG he met a local man donning long dreadlocks and a large beard, or in Tok Pisin language, ‘mausgras’ (mouth grass).

“When I asked him why he was not clean shaven he explained that as part of his Melanesian culture he had made a vow to not cut his hair for 1000 days out of respect for an Aunty who had passed away,” John said.

“Since then I have met various other PNG locals, from various locations and various cultures, who have taken similar vows after the loss of loved ones. I however, have never forgotten this first encounter way back in October 2003.”

This sparked John to take a vow of his own for his father, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s last year and continues to live with the condition in the care of his mother.

“I have been clean shaven with short hair my entire life. Generally I don’t stand to have even two or three days of facial hair growth and my work industry requires me to be clean shaven.”

“Taking into account the challenges those going through Alzheimer’s disease are faced with day to day and the various individuals I meet and see in PNG struggling with even basic necessity medical challenges, I figured that my current severe itchy hair discomfort is just a grain of sand in the ocean comparison.”

John began his journey on January 1, 2016 and hopes to continue his vow whilst raising funds for the AADRF until September, 2018 or until such a time that he reaches his target of $10,000.

John said that he began his vow as a personal journey and did not intend to campaign for others’ donations, but after persuasion from friends and family and his discomfort from the hair growth, he has ‘relented’ and now welcomes donations.

“The company I and many PNG locals work for has a guideline that workers should be clean shaven. I am also campaigning for that guideline to be revised to allow this custom of mourning loved ones to continue in the workplace.”

“If you are feeling generous please help me in getting this hair off my face and head, and give to this great cause. So far we have raised enough to bring my haircut date forward by 24 days and hopefully that date will keep getting closer as others donate. On top of my $10 a day donation, I have and will match all other donations dollar for dollar.”


To donate to John’s fundraiser click here.

To contribute to the AADRF through your own fundraiser or event click here or contact us at [email protected].