'Movember' raises awareness for testicular, prostate cancers


If you see men sporting mustaches more often than usual over the upcoming month, it might not be just a fashion trend.

Over the past 10 years, millions of men and women have participated in "Movember" by proudly growing mustaches (or being supportive of the mustache-growing process) to help change the face of men's health.

"Mo Bros" raise awareness for testicular and prostate cancers by shaving their faces clean on Nov. 1 -- the date that they refer to as "Movember 1," and growing their mustaches out for the entire month.

What began in Australia between a few friends in a bar, has grown from 30 Mo Bros in 2003, to more than 1.12 million people in 21 countries.

Divided into teams, each group has a name and a personal fundraising goal. You do not need to be a team member to donate.

More than $147 million

Last year alone, more than $147 million was raised to fund life-saving research around the world.

"Our goal is a simple one -- to help raise money, because 1 in 2 men will get one of these forms of cancer," said Geeg Wiles, 30, of Pownal.

Wiles will participate in his third consecutive Movember as captain of the Ahab's (Moustache) Adventures team.

"A few guys on our team have a personal interest in the cause," said Wiles, of the group which has 15 members.

"When I was told about it a few years ago I thought it was a good idea," said Wiles. "You don't have to put a lot of time into this, it's just a great way to spread the word."

First introduced in the United States in 2007, Movember USA gained official charity status just two years later and now employs nearly 30 people in Culver City, Calif., who manage funding and help teams around the country get organized.

In the U.S., the Movember organization has two major men's health partnerships, with the Prostate Cancer Foundation and more recently with the Livestrong Foundation.

Hundreds of smaller programs also receive substantial sums of money to further their research and survivor assistance goals.

"This started as a pretty pure idea," said Wiles. "I never question the charities the money goes to."

Cpl. Andy Hunt of the Bennington Police Department will grow his first Mo this year as part of the No Mo? No Go! team, run by a former Mount Anthony classmate, David Hamilton.

"It would be nice to raise some money," said Hunt, of their eight-member team. "But it's more about putting awareness out there."

"I've been talking to the guys at work about it," laughed Hunt, on whether he has managed to recruit others. "It's within our grooming standards, so why not."

Hamilton, who graduated high school with Hunt in 2002, has been participating in Movember for the past five years along with his fellow Coast Guardsmen.

"It definitely boosts morale, but it also raises money for a good cause," said Hamilton, who has yet to set a team fundraising goal.

"I figure, ‘as much as possible' is usually the best way to go," he said.

Previously stationed in northern Massachusetts, Hamilton was introduced to the men's health initiative by a former officer there, who is now retired, before being stationed in Fort Dix, N.J.

"Most years we raised more than $1,000. I'd like to come close to that again this year," he said.

Although Hamilton participates with men's cancer in mind, part of him is thinking about his mother, a cancer survivor who underwent a double mastectomy.

"Cancer has hit my family, period," said Hamilton. "So it's something I take a little pride in raising money for."

Although it might not be pink, those behind the scenes at the nonprofit say they mustache "is our hairy ribbon."

"We've found that the ladies are the ones who push us to grow the mustache and be a part of this," said a Movember employee who asked not to be named. "We call them ‘Mo Sistas.' They're also great at organizing the fundraisers and getting new people involved."

A tax deductible charity organization, employees of the nonprofit say it "tries to be very transparent."

"We support organizations that have amazing programs on survivorship," said one member of the staff in California. "Mustaches are a good way to start a conversation. Guys don't take charge of their health, that's why we're pushing awareness."

In 2011, and again in 2012, Movember was ranked one of the top 100 best Non-Governmental Organizations in the world by the Global Journal, based on impact, innovation and sustainability.

According to the Movember website, there are an estimated 5 million NGOs around the world competing for that status.

The rules and guidelines have not changed since they were made over a decade ago.

Start with a clean-shaven face on Movember 1, and maintain the mustache throughout the month.

Joining the Mo to your sideburns constitutes a beard and is off-limits, as is joining the handlebars to your chin, which would result in a goatee.

Most importantly? Each Mo Bro must conduct himself like a true gentleman.

To donate, or to join one of the local teams mentioned, which are both open to the public, visit www.us. movember.com/team/963513 or www.us. movember.com/team/1130749.

Editor's note: In the interest of full disclosure, Geeg Wiles is a friend of Banner Staff Writer Khynna Kuprian. Contact Khynna at kkuprian@benningtonbanner.com and follow her on Twitter @khynnakat.


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