Cincy Taus get motivated for Movember

17 November

Breast cancer has a pink ribbon. Women’s heart disease has a red dress. Now, prostate and testicular cancer have … mustaches.

The mustache is an often-parodied feature that has come to symbolize particular people and ideas – from the fu manchu and the cowboy handlebar to Charlie Chaplin’s toothbrush style and Magnum P.I.’s manicured upper lip.

But the Movember Foundation hopes it will become a tongue-in-cheek reminder of the need for prostate and testicular cancer awareness.

More than 200 men (and supportive women) in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky have signed up to raise funds for the foundation by growing out a “mo” – Australian slang for “mustache” – during November. The event, which started in Australia in 2003 with 30 people, grew to 173,435 worldwide participants in 2008, and 211,146 people are currently registered this year.

To date, Movember has raised $47 million.

The rules of Movember are simple: Participants register at Movember.com – usually in teams, shave off all facial hair and begin growing out just a mustache. Each team has a “Mo Space” page where supporters can make donations and browse entertaining photos of each man’s progress.

The good-humored event is attracting all types – from men who rarely show a five-o’clock shadow to those who haven’t had a bare face in years.

There is some trepidation, however, among those growing a mustache for the first time.

About a third of the 30 men on “Team UC ATO,” from the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity at the University of Cincinnati, started the month with a beard or goatee, but this generation hasn’t had a mustache-clad icon like Tom Selleck to promote the style as he did on “Magnum P.I.” in the ’80s.

“It’s going to be a bit of a culture shock,” says fifth-year student Drew Hamer.

Movember’s growing popularity is due, in part, to its low-maintenance approach, particularly when compared with other fundraising programs.

“It requires little work from our end other than just growing a mustache,” Hamer says. “Other charities we support (with) 5K walks and things like that.”

In addition to the “donate” function on each team’s Mo Space page, the Movember Foundation provides templates to download and pass along through e-mails, letters, post cards, posters and business cards that teams can distribute to solicit funds. Some teams also host an event to generate donations. UC ATO is holding a Movember party at the end of the month, complete with fake mustaches for the sororities in attendance.

Beyond raising money for the Prostate Cancer Foundation and the Lance Armstrong Foundation, the goal of Movember is to make men more comfortable talking about prostate and testicular cancer, and the novelty of a mustache on a normally clean-shaven face is an icebreaker and a billboard.

“The purpose of Movember is someone sees this weird thing growing on your face and asks about it,” Oxender says. “It starts this dialogue about men’s health.”

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