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Movember celebrates sixth year in U.S.

An area resident is growing a moustache to support a global health initiative.

By Joseph Myers
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Nov. 15, 2012

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Sporting a Livestrong bracelet, Michael Walsh has made promoting men’s health issues a beloved pastime.

Photo by Greg Bezanis

“I will do anything for this cause,” Michael Walsh said Friday, guiding his fingers over his budding moustache. “I feel like a walking, talking billboard for men’s health.”

The 31-year-old resident of 21st and South streets has united with 192,000 fellow Americans, including 55 South Philadelphians, to support Movember, a nine-year-old charitable initiative that uses facial hair growth as a metaphor for promoting robust discussions on male well-being, including discourses on understanding the causes and effects of prostate and testicular cancers. By refraining from reaching for their razors, he and his contemporaries are encouraging their brethren to take shears to their silence and advocate for increased awareness of their bodies’ workings.

More accustomed to adorning his face with a beard, Walsh, a Newtown Square native, is giving his upper lip a chance to shine for the fourth year. He and brother CJ, a Center City resident, learned of Movember through their work with Livestrong, cyclist Lance Armstrong’s foundation for which they have raised $150,000 over the last seven years.

“We were receiving an award and heard a bit about the foundation’s work with Movember,” Walsh said of the movement that Australian men founded in 2003 to revive interest in moustaches, which they felt had become stigmatized decorations. “There was a sort of dare level involved in committing, and we liked the idea of essentially doing nothing, namely not shaving, to accomplish something huge.”

Like all registrants, nicknamed Mo Bros, Walsh has begun each Movember clean-shaven and dedicated to engaging men and women in talks on the need to have the former take more stock in their welfare and the latter, dubbed Mo Sistas, continue to stress the importance of physicals and screenings. Infatuation with the mission has helped Movember to hit an all-time high of one million global participants, who will likely raise $150 million, its Chief Operating Officer Jason Hincks said. Bettering last year’s enrollment by 178,000, they will try to top other ’11 tallies, such as the 79 percent of partakers who discussed their health with colleagues, family or friends; the 71 percent who added to their knowledge of men’s health matters; and the 69 percent who scheduled a general health checkup.

“Though people have brought in tons of money, the project for me is less about fundraising and more about advocacy,” Walsh said.

Walsh oversees his 39-member team, I Hate Cancer, whose efforts have generated more than $2,000 of America’s $7 million raised funds. They gathered Nov. 1, or Movember 1, as enthusiasts have renamed it, at Fishtown’s Frankford Hall to launch the United States’ sixth contribution to the worldwide undertaking, intent on evolving from stubble to admirable ’staches.

“The organizers also give out a Man of Movember title, which I have no shot at winning,” Walsh said as he critiqued his then-barely-week-old growth. “A grower has to be proactive in knowing how to react because, believe me, some people will look at you funny. A moustache sometimes gets a bad rap because people associate it with a 1970s porn star look, which is understandable.

“The whole initiative brings out a competitive man spirit that includes making fun of your peers if they grow something that looks like something an 11-year-old might sprout.”

The regional sales representative for an Upper Darby kitchen cabinet company has earned the support of girlfriend Abbey Barron, who has come to accept his enhancement.

“She’s not fond of it but is of me,” he said. “I’ll take that.”

 

last year’s CIA World Factbook determined American women enjoy a life expectancy of 80.93 years, while their male counterparts average 75.92 years. Movember literature has pondered the gulf’s causes, noting many men lack awareness of particular health issues and adopt tough attitudes to counter perceptions that they are experiencing jeopardized well-being, which leads to shunning calls to physicians for examinations.

Hincks has realized matters have grown hairier, so to speak, for his peers who fail to understand they could be doing further damage to their bodies and subsequently hurting their loved ones.

“We’re constantly looking to evolve,” the Australian said, proud the raised global monetary figure, as of press time, stood at $42 million from campaigns in 21 countries. “We realize the pressing need to circulate information and promote allegiance to health.”

Along with Movember, the Prostate Cancer Foundation and Livestrong direct funds to programs that promote research and the construction of campaigns to inspire more resolute attention to all cancer matters. With 34 years between them, the initiatives have generated nearly $1 billion, with the Prostate Cancer Foundation especially active in November, National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. As the most common non-skin cancer in America, prostate cancer affects one in six men, with nearly 242,000 annual diagnoses. Livestrong strives to make life more manageable for all cancer patients, which its website estimates as 28 million worldwide.

“We’re hopeful we’ll be able to discover cures,” Hincks, whose charity has eclipsed $300 million in its eight years, said. “We have a global action plan in place so we can ensure that researchers are collaborating.”

The Melbourne resident stressed enhancing survivorship statistics factors into outreach and combines with attention to prevention to give his organization its appeal, which last year initiated 1.9 billion conversations about its mission.

Walsh has enjoyed explaining Movember to neighborhood acquaintances and is attributing the growth of the movement to opportunities to combine facial creativity and support what he sees as an irresistible cause. That he and other Americans have tripled their involvement over the last two years supports Hinck’s belief that the United States, with the fourth highest number of participants, might soon join Australia, Canada and New Zealand in receiving money to devote to mental health issues.

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