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Grab CEO Anthony Tan goes bald for children with cancer, raises record sum

SINGAPORE — Grab’s co-founder Anthony Tan has gone bald for children with cancer, raising a record sum for the annual Hair for Hope campaign.

Grab CEO Anthony Tan shaved his head on July 11 in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, where the company held a leadership retreat.

Grab CEO Anthony Tan shaved his head on July 11 in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, where the company held a leadership retreat.

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SINGAPORE — Grab’s co-founder Anthony Tan has gone bald for children with cancer, raising a record sum for the annual Hair for Hope campaign.

By Monday (July 29), Mr Tan’s effort has drawn S$197,010 in donations, more than double his S$80,000 target, the Hair for Hope website showed.

This is the highest amount raised by an individual since the yearly drive began in 2003, a spokesperson for the Children’s Cancer Foundation (CCF) said. The foundation organises Hair for Hope — a campaign in which participants shave their heads to show solidarity with cancer-stricken children.

The previous record was S$119,980 raised in 2011, CCF’s spokesperson said.

It is also the first year Grab Singapore is taking part in the campaign. As a whole, the ride-sharing firm's 107 participants, including 40 driver-partners, have raised S$324,514 so far — also a record for a “satellite” partner, CCF said.

Satellite events are held in offices, schools and other places, away from the main Hair for Hope event, which took place at VivoCity mall over the weekend.

Among the donors who threw their support behind Mr Tan, several stand out.

Mr Masayoshi Son, founder of Japan’s SoftBank Group, which invests in Grab, pitched in S$90,000. Mr Dara Khosrowshahi, chief executive officer of ride-hailing company Uber, which sold its regional business to Grab last year, gave S$10,000.


Mr Tan, who is also Grab’s chief executive officer, shaved his head on July 11 in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, where the company held a leadership retreat.

While he declined to be interviewed when approached, Mr Tan said in a post on networking site LinkedIn that the cause was deeply personal.

“My mother-in-law was a cancer patient and my wife, Chloe, remembers how losing her hair affected her.

“I am a soon-to-be father of three and I can’t imagine the grief that these children and their families go through when they receive the diagnosis and start cancer treatment. This is my small way of standing in support with them,” he wrote in the post a fortnight ago.

Technology company Grab's participants at this year's Hair for Hope campaign include (clockwise from top left) Mr Anthony Tan, co-founder and chief executive officer; Ms Ong Chin Yin, head of people; Mr Artem Alabastro, senior marketing executive; and Ms Cherlene Lim, project manager. Photos: Grab

Grab’s involvement was sparked by a conversation between Ms Ong Chin Yin, its head of people, and Mr Andrew Chan, head of transport for Singapore, early this year.

Ms Ong, 45, who oversees human resources and information technology at Grab, told TODAY that the movement was “very organic but very quick”.

“Employees started to sign up… then you saw employees donating as well — and making multiple donations — to different (colleagues) who signed up as ‘shavees’,” she said.

For Ms Ong, the cause is also close to her heart as she knows several women in their 40s who have fought, or are still battling, cancer.

One died as recently as about two months ago. “You see the suffering through the years of battling cancer, you see the impact on her husband and her two young children,” she said.

Ms Ong, who used to sport a bob, shaved her head in Grab’s downtown offices in Marina One on June 27. She made the commitment partly to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with children who are “looked at and feeling 10 times more self-conscious than somebody like me”.

“The point of the movement is… to show to the world and to them that it is okay, and that there is nothing to be ashamed or fearful about,” she said.


Other Grab employees were moved to take part by their own brushes with ill health.

For Mr Artem Alabastro, a senior marketing executive at Grab Singapore, a health scare earlier this year involving his heart “was extremely terrifying — even to me as an adult”.

“I can only imagine how difficult it is to be a child and to know that you have to battle cancer. In a way, this is my little gesture to support these kids, showing that I understand and that I salute their bravery and resilience,” the 28-year-old told TODAY.

Ms Cherlene Lim, a project manager with Grab, was bald during childhood because of an illness and had to don a cap constantly to avoid curious stares from others. Her hair returned only in primary school.

“I want to stand in solidarity with the children,” Ms Lim, 41, said.

Asked if Grab would continue to take part in Hair for Hope in the coming years, Ms Ong was non-committal, but said that the company would support “different causes, in our very different ways”.

Grab backs other causes in Singapore, including supporting its food delivery-partners with disabilities, and helping small- and medium-sized enterprises with loans, for instance.

Ms Neo Lay Tin, CCF’s executive director, said that the charity was heartened by Grab’s support for the cause.

“Every shaven head helps to raise awareness of the plight of children with cancer and their families,” she said.

Hair for Hope’s main event at VivoCity on Saturday and Sunday attracted 2,826 participants who went bald for the cause. In all, more than 5,400 people shaved their heads as part of this year’s campaign, including at 52 satellite events.

The campaign has raised more than S$4 million so far. It brought in about S$4.3 million last year.

Online donations close at the end of September.

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Grab Anthony Tan Hair for Hope cancer Children's Cancer Foundation

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