Smooth operator: Karen shaves head for charity
It’s just hair. At least that’s what Karen Plianthos told herself. Her tresses were worth more to her off than on.
She raised $8,396 when she shaved her head in the name of childhood cancer, an event she called a “complete success”.
“I would never consider myself as having the most amazing hair,” she said.
“The fact that people are willing to donate over $8,000 to me to shave it — sometimes you question humanity and then you get a true testament that there is still good in the world; people do care.
“Friday night was an absolute example of that.”
Ms Plianthos said it was interesting seeing people’s reactions on her first day out, freshly sheared.
“There is always this cautiousness,” she said. “When I explain that I shaved it for childhood cancer you can see the massive relief on their face.
“No, I don’t have cancer. Please donate to kids who do, though. The nice thing is St Baldrick’s is a foundation with an online funding platform that goes for an entire year.”
She has made a habit of giving back.
Ms Plianthos started her own business, Bermuda Wine Concierge, in June, offering expertise for private events, educational classes, personalised sourcing and cellar organisation.
At the end of every wine tasting, she auctions off any extra bottles rather than returning them to wholesalers.
The exercise has raised $3,623.10 for The Eliza DoLittle Society, The Family Centre, The Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, SCARS, Meals on Wheels, Bermuda Autism Early Intervention and the SPCA.
“I feel as though I found this real niche in the community of people wanting to raise funds through wine tasting,” she said.
“I’m able to donate my services, but also benefit the community.”
The 36-year-old is a director for the Walter S Saul Youth Exchange Bursary, which grants students with financial needs the opportunity to study overseas.
In January, she took part in the Bermuda Lionfish Winter Derby, a month long free-diving competition. She also works with the St Baldrick’s Foundation, the Jewish Community of Bermuda and George Washington University on separate fundraising initiatives.
She also offers discounts on her services to registered charities.
Ms Plianthos said her introduction to auctioneering was “an absolute fluke”. Three years ago she was assisting the Jewish Community of Bermuda’s annual fundraising event and they had ten hand-carved mezuzahs up for silent auction.
She volunteered to open the live bidding, having no experience at all.
“What had I got to lose?” she asked. “I got really into it. I can’t even describe the adrenalin rush of knowing that you’ve just convinced people to pay eight times the price of something and they’re so happy with it. Everyone’s happy and cheering.”
She started researching how to be great. “Number one, learn your crowd,” she said.
“We’re not talking about a Sotheby’s auction room with 1,000 people on paddles. This is Bermuda; you know ten per cent of that crowd hands-down on a first-name, dog’s-name, licence-plate basis.”
The most important thing: thank your audience.
“That first person who makes a bid, you stop right there and you say, ‘Thank you. You understand why we’re here tonight. You understand that we want to abolish childhood cancer.
“‘I want everyone in this room right now to raise their hand if they want to abolish childhood cancer. Thank you. Remember what it feels like to raise your hand and remember why you’re raising it.’”
She will also hand the microphone to the floor.
“That someone else is usually extremely connected and passionate about the money that they’re trying to raise. They will give an anecdote that will surpass anything that you will say as an auctioneer.”
At a company Christmas party, she raised $860 for Meals on Wheels; the best was a personal testimonial from Denise Watkins whose five-year-old son, Brennan, had cancer.
Reflecting on her career, she said it was not hard to see how she got here. With more than 15 years in catering and event management, seven years in hospitality as a snorkel guide and then taking the time to educate herself on wines, Ms Plianthos has carved a path that is all her own.
“Having a skill set that’s very unique and individualistic but also very relevant to what the Bermuda Community enjoys in their free time and recreational activities. I’m extremely pleased about it,” she said.
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