Sonoma County residents help spotlight men's health with new moustaches in 'Movember'
Published: Monday, November 5, 2012 at 2:07 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, November 5, 2012 at 2:43 p.m.
Move over, November.
Those in the know now call this month "Movember" in deference to a global campaign to raise awareness and funding for men's cancers through the embrace -- nay, the exaltation -- of the moustache.
Close to 800,000 men across the world, including dozens in the North Bay, are sprouting new ones this month to bring attention to men's health issues and to promote screenings for prostate and testicular cancers in a gender group not particularly known for enthusiasm in that department.
Yet one in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, according to the National Institutes of Health. Among American males, testicular cancer is the most common cancer among those age 15 to 35. Early detection increases treatment options and greatly enhances survival.
The Movember movement is all about making sure people get that message with the whimsy and style that only a hairy upper lip can deliver, whether cultivated in sculpted splendor, allowed to go wild like an invasive plant or meticulously trimmed into a terse statement.
"It definitely is attention grabbing, and hopefully it will grab attention for the right reasons," said Healdsburg resident Todd Au, 34, team captain for 17 associates of Graystone Consulting in Santa Rosa said in an email blast he sent to Graystone offices across the country last week.
"We thought this would be a cool way to get the message across and look like hipsters doing it," said Daniel Chandler of Petaluma, team captain for GoBigStacheOrGoHome, who surprised himself by raising $2,000 last year with a handful of co-workers at LoopNet.com -- donations their company matched.
Movember started nine years ago in Australia, where "mo" is the common term for moustache, as a tongue-in-cheak homage to the thick, lustrous 'staches of the '70s.
The founding Mo Bros and Mo Sistas, who, even without facial hair, can support the Mo Bros they know and promote the movement, added an altruistic layer to their fun the next year, raising $54,000 for the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia.
By 2007, the growing movement had been exported to several countries, including the United States and Canada. It has continued expanding with impressive results, bringing in more than 1.9 million Mo Bros and Sistas and raising $299 million for prostate and testicular cancer initiatives since its start, U.S. spokeswoman Abbie Rumery said.
Last year's worldwide campaign raised $126.3 million for cancer initiatives, more than $15 million of it in the United States, Rumery said.
Money raised in the United States goes to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, the Livestrong Foundation, and the Movember Foundation's awareness and education program and Global Action Plan to speed collaboration and prostate cancer research.
Eric Gardea, owner of the Santa Rosa Barber Shop, said he learned of the campaign last year. His father, Tomas, 66, is a prostate cancer survivor, and the movement "hit home."
Gardea and his brother, Michael, and their dad are growing moustaches for the second time this year, because "this is the least I can do to spread the good word," said Gardea, 40.
He said his wife hates his having a moustache about as much as one can -- a common complaint -- "but she goes along with it because she's a wonderful person, and she knows how close the issue is to my family."
"For me, it's almost like with breast cancer awareness -- everybody wearing pink," said Tim Keith, 31, owner and winemaker at Everybody Happy Wine Co. in Napa. "I feel like the moustache is kind of like our pink in many ways, and I think that's the idea."
The folks at Movember like to say each Mo Bro becomes "a walking billboard for men's health" and estimate each moustache provokes enough "Whys?" and "What fors?" to spark more than 2,000 conversations for each individual mo.
The ground rules require male participants to start Nov. 1 clean-shaven and to continue growing their moustaches for 30 days. At the end, there are commonly parties or other events involving celebratory shaves.
Gardea is offering free shaves at his Santa Rosa Avenue barber shop at the end of Movember. In Fairfax, Karen "Kaz" Begley, a transplanted Australian and owner of Hairfax Studio, is hosting a Dec. 1 Modown.
No beards or goatees are permitted during Movember, but there are no limits to the kind of 'stache one might grow, and the movement encourages self-expression and creativity, though it clearly favors those whose facial hair grows readily.
Healdsburg winemaker Noah Dorrance, 36, said he knows his two partners and teammates on team Banshee Stache Meisters will suffer on account of their generally thinner facial hair.
But Dorrance is going for a Tom Selleck look -- "as big and bushy a moustache as I can get in 30 days."
Chandler, 31, waxed and curled the tips of his moustache last year, and said one or two teammates planned thick handlebars this year -- good news, "because that's the moneymaker."
"If you see some new 'staches out there," Chandler said, "show a little love."
You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 521-5249 or mary. email@example.com.
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