Movember, the charity movement with the mustache as its focal point, is back and bigger than ever.
The Movember Foundation uses the month of November to challenge men to grow facial hair to inspire one another to live happier, healthier and longer lives. The foundation has raised more than $650 million and helped fund more than 1,000 breakthrough men's health programs in 21 countries.
Movember's outreach has extended through its partnership with the NHL and Hockey Fights Cancer. The annual Hockey Fights Cancer campaign, launched Oct. 19 and running until Nov. 13, is a joint initiative between the NHL and the NHL Players' Association that's raised more than $15 million since its inception in 1998.
Twenty-five NHL teams and 369 players contributed to Movember last year, according to the Movember Foundation. The Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, and Carolina Hurricanes ranked as the League's top-three fundraising teams. Every team in Canada registered and participated, and player participation grew 16 percent from 2013 with Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher emerging as the top fundraiser.
Not bad for a movement that began unexpectedly 12 years ago when Adam Garone, an Australian Army officer at the time, joined his brother Travis and two friends for a few beers. Little did Garone realize a discussion about fashion that morphed into the lost art of growing a mustache would plant a seed for a campaign that in 2014 had more than 166,000 participants in the United States and raised more than $20 million for men's health, and 281,820 people raising more than $36 million (U.S.) across North America.
"Movember started with four of us," Garone said, "and we went on to inspire a room full of people, 30 of us. The next year it was 450 people, and then it was 10,000 people in Australia and New Zealand.
"Movember is sort of a perfect word-of-mouth campaign. The mustache is on your face and guys effectively become a walking, talking billboard for men's health over the course of 30 days. Now with the power of social media, the ability to amplify what you're doing is exponentially greater."
George Parros, who played nine seasons in the League and won the Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007, was one of the first players to get behind the campaign. Parros launched his 'Stache Gear apparel line in 2009 to benefit the Childhood Leukemia Foundation and Garth Brooks Teammates for Kids, and reached out to Garone to get involved.
"It was sort of this organic growth," Garone said. "The other great thing about Movember is it's an absolute equalizer because a fan could be doing it, a coach could be doing it, one of the team managers through the players, through the [referees], are all doing it. The heath issues that we are tackling affect everyone."
New to the campaign in 2015 is MOVE, Movember's 30-day fitness challenge encouraging men and women to participate to fight off the effects of a sedentary lifestyle brought on by advances in technology. MOVE encourages men and women to keep active, for example, by getting off two subway stops earlier and walking the last mile to work, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator.
"It's so unhealthy for us to be so sedentary," Garone said. "For us, sitting is the new smoking. Even now we don't print as much stuff, so we're literally not moving from our desk. Part of this is like, yeah, move 30 times over the course of a month, but inspire people to make these small changes."
Equally important to Garone and the Movember Foundation is the state of mental health regarding men. One out of four adults in the United States experiences a mental health problem and three out of every four suicides are men, according to the Movember Foundation.
Garone believes a big part of the problem is men are conditioned to always be in control and are therefore more reluctant to ask for help.
"We all need to work at this collectively," Garone said. "The state of men's health is still in pretty bad shape. On average, men die five years earlier than women and there's no biological reason for that. All our research that we've done in this field tells us when it comes to our health, men don't talk about it and, most importantly, don't act on it. As a community, men and women, we need to address those issues."
As the focus on men's health continues to grow, Garone's goal is to continue the spirit of MOVE for a second month, a third month, a year and ultimately a lifetime.
"This is our aim: Make a commitment to move every day of November for 30 days, and what we know through that is that those little behaviors will then persist throughout the year," Garone said. "Even with Movember, growing a mustache creates a conversation about men's health. That gets men engaged in the health issues that they face, makes them more knowledgeable and more comfortable just talking about how they're feeling over what's going on. That knowledge, that conversation persists throughout the year."