Hey, it’s for a good cause.
Ron Swanson, Chuck Norris and the Most Interesting Man in the World all have one. And for 30 days, University of Florida sophomore Johnny Garcia will have one too — a mustache, that is.
The 20-year-old is one of thousands of men who won’t be shaving their upper lips until Dec. 1. Their efforts are part of Movember, a global health charity meant to raise awareness and funds for men’s health.
The campaign, which was started in 2003 by two Australians but now spans 21 countries, encourages participants to grow a mustache in order to initiate dialogue about prostate and testicular cancer.
“I’ve never had facial hair so people are constantly asking what’s up with my new look,” Garcia said. “Once they ask, I just start giving them the spiel about why I’m doing it. It’s a great conversation-starter.”
The campaign suggests it is imperative to have these conversations because the statistics are overwhelming. A man will die from prostate cancer every 18.6 minutes and more than 28,000 men will die of the disease this year, according to the website.
Mo Bros, as male participants are called, are asked to register with movember.com, create a home page and share the event with people they know. Family members, friends and strangers can then donate money to support the month-long razor boycott.
Funds raised in the U.S. benefit the Prostate Cancer Foundation and the Livestrong Foundation. They are allocated toward programs in the areas of awareness, survivorship and research, according to the campaign’s website.
“We’ve found that each moustache generates 2,413 conversations during the month, raising awareness, which can save lives,” stated Adam Garone, CEO and co-founder of Movember, in a press release. “Our success is due to the 855,203 amazing Mo Bros and Mo Sistas who participated globally in 2011, raising $126.3 million world-wide.”
Despite the fact they can’t participate by growing a mustache, women form an important part of the campaign. Mo Sistas are encouraged to raise funds and persuade the men in their lives to participate.
Katie Fuller, 21, became a Mo Sista after interning with the campaign in 2011.
The University of Southern California volleyball player brought the idea to other student athletes after her summer internship was over.
“I thought it was a great way for us to get involved in community-service hours,” she said. “I recommended it to our team, and I know the swimming and diving team raised a ton of money, too.”
Fuller and 15 of her teammates enjoyed being Mo Sistas so much that they decided to participate a second year. She said their goal is to raise $375 by the end of the month.
While participants raise money for the cause, razor companies and barbershop owners could lose monthly revenue. But Margaret Bowen, a master barber at Bob’s Barbershop in Gainesville, Fla., said she doesn’t mind.
The 57-year-old said she understands how crucial it is to bring attention to the health issue because she has two sons and two grandsons.
“Men don’t like to get their prostate checked out because the procedure is invasive,” she said. “It’s a bit of taboo, but how silly is that?”
Although the campaign centers on prostate cancer, many patients and survivors have never heard about it. Such is the case with Steve Ward, 60, a survivor of prostate cancer who was fascinated by the idea behind Movember.
“The power of humor is so strong,” he said. “I think that’s the essence of the whole thing. It’s to have fun with it.”
Ward is used to finding the glass half full. After being diagnosed in March 2011 and going through five weeks of strenuous radiation treatments, he wrote Finding Your Positives. The book serves as an inspirational guide to dealing with life’s challenges.
In addition to teaching others how to cope, Ward hopes to raise awareness about cancer and other diseases.
“Early detection is a person’s best friend … whether it’s for a bump on the skin or a fever,” he said. “Too many times, people wait until it’s too late.”
He plans on sharing the campaign with his support group and poker team.
“I didn’t start it on the first of November, but I’m starting today,” he said.
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