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Penguins Reward "Beard-A-Thon" Winners

by Jason Seidling / Pittsburgh Penguins
Thanks to another run of postseason success in 2010, where the Penguins came within one victory of becoming the first team since the 1990-92 Boston Bruins to make three straight Eastern Conference finals appearances, Penguins fans participation in the second annual ‘Beard-A-Thon’ has once again raised a significant amount of money for the Mario Lemieux Foundation.

The Penguins rewarded 2010 "Beard-A-Thon" winners (from left to right) Tyler Bluemling, Trevor Kuhlman and Tom Crooks.
Twelve of the NHL’s 16 playoff entrants participated in the 2010 Beard-A-Thon, and at the conclusion of the second round – when the Penguins were eliminated – Penguins fans had raised the most money with over $88,000. As of June 4 the total number raised stood at $90,908.

Prizes were awarded to the top-three individual fundraisers who were not part of a larger group or members of the Penguins organizations. This year’s winners are first-place winner Tyler Bluemling (2nd overall) of Pittsburgh, runner-up Tom Crooks (7th overall) of Washington, Pa. and Trevor Kuhlman (8th overall) of Cranberry Township.

Bluemling, who as of June 4 had raised $3,803.02, participated in the Beard-A-Thon for the second consecutive year. Behind the support of family, friends and his entire sixth-grade glass, Bluemling blew away his 2009 total.

In an effort to get his students involved in the postseason craziness, Bluemling staged a competition with a fifth-grade teacher from the school where both teach. They received over $600 in donations from local sporting good stores and then raffled the prizes off each Penguins game day as students donated to both teachers’ cause.

“Over the four weeks that the Penguins were in the playoffs, in addition to collecting money for the Mario Lemieux Foundation, we did a penny war where we raised over $2,500 from our school alone,” Bluemling said. “We were really successful at the school raising money.”

Bluemling’s reward for his and his students’ hard work was a 20 x 16 inch canvas print of Lemieux handing the Stanley Cup to Penguins captain Sidney Crosby last June. Bluemling, who has a vast collection of sports memorabilia, hopes to soon get Crosby’s signature alongside Lemieux’s. He then plans to display the canvas in his future home along with the other bats, jerseys and bobbleheads which already comprise his collection.

“For not having my own house yet and still living with four college friends, I don’t have enough room for the amount of sports memorabilia that I have,” Bluemling said. “This painting will be somewhere alongside my other stuff once I have it framed. I took it to a framer (last week) to make sure the fading doesn’t go away and to make sure the autograph doesn’t go away. The only thing I have to do now is find myself a house.”

Crooks, whose total through June 4 stood at $1,700, also participated in the Beard-A-Thon for a second season. Crooks says he ‘grew one for the team’ because the Mario Lemieux Foundation helps support a cause which means a lot to his family – The Children’s Home of Pittsburgh.
Crooks, along with his brother, Rick, and sister, Jan, were adopted from The Children’s Home.

“We try to support the Children’s Home in any way that we can,” Crooks said. “We couldn’t think of a better way than to help the Lemieux Foundation and help the Penguins win.”

Crooks’ support came from family, friends and colleagues – many of whom became Penguins fans because Crooks’ and his wife’s influence. As a way to say ‘thank you’ and to raise even more money for the Lemieux Foundation, Crooks and his wife matched every donation he received.

“It’s nice to get a two-for-one deal,” Crooks said. “We were really successful in jumping the number up this year by doing that.”

Crooks’ prize for placing second was an autographed Crosby jersey. He and his wife intend to use the jersey as part of a raffle for the local YMCA swimming program their children belong to as a way to support anther worthy cause.

“We are trying to really parlay the money that everybody donated into more money for another great cause,” Crooks said. “We have a signed Lemieux jersey, but we were trying to think of a good way to take care of the Sid jersey and we found that would be using it to help raise money for another great cause. We are sure that Sid would be OK with that because we are supporting kids and I know he would be supportive of the kids in the swim program.”

Kuhlman, a first-time Beard-A-Thon participant, has raised $1,185 through June 4. He called his decision to enter the contest “spur-of-the-moment.”

“I hadn’t shaved in a couple of days and was sitting there online and saw they were doing the contest for charity so I said to my mom that I wanted to do it,” Kuhlman said.

While Kuhlman said he hopes the Penguins advance even further in the playoffs so he can grow an even larger beard, he can’t help but thank his friends and family for helping him place so high in ’10.

“I just had friends and family backing me up – no organizations,” Kuhlman said. “Luckily they all contributed enough to put me in the top three. They are the best.”

The backing of his friends and family allowed Kuhlman to take home the third prize – an autographed McFarlane figure of Lemieux.

“I thought it was pretty cool to get something like that signed by Mario,” he said. “I have a few other things signed by Mario and some of the other players from the 90s Cup teams. It will go into my collection. I have a little Pens shrine in my basement so I will put it up there and it will be another feather in my cap.”

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