Thursday, October 3, 2013

'Follicly fighting domestic violence'

Alright, men of Charlotte: I want to see some stubble.

Beards BeCAUSE will launch its 7th campaign at 7 p.m. Friday at NoDa Brewing, 2229 N. Davidson St.

The grassroots nonprofit aims to raise local awareness of domestic violence - as well as funding for battered women's shelters in the community - through a two-month facial hair "growing season."

Participants are challenged to grow their best beard and collectively raise $50,000 before the Dec. 7 finale at Neighborhood Theatre.

To date, Beards BeCAUSE has raised more than $217,000 for organizations such as Safe Alliance.

Director Jared Yerg said Beards BeCAUSE started as an idea on a bar napkin, a competition among friends for charity. He loved the dichotomy of the concept: something as masculine as facial hair for a cause that mainly affects women.

"Back before beards were kind of hip and cool, and everyone had one, it was something that was not the norm. Our guys stood out a little more," Yerg said.

"What we go through for two months is nothing compared to what women going through domestic violence are going through. We want to take people out of their comfort zone."

The fact that October is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month is often lost in a sea of pink, as Breast Cancer Awareness is front and center, Yerg said.

But domestic violence affects the same number of women as breast cancer, he said, noting it's estimated that one in four women will deal with one or the other.

"Not too many people are as comfortable talking about domestic violence as they are about other things."

So how can you help? There are a couple of ways to get involved.

Growers: These guys start out clean shaven and pledge not to touch a razor for at least 60 days. "It's two months of unadulterated facial hair growing, no trimming," Yerg said.

As your facial hair fills in, it becomes a conversation-starter, a chance to educate and fund raise all at the same time. (Plus you'll have a jump on "No-Shave November.")

Bearded Ladies: "We don't ask them to stop shaving anything for the two-month period," Yerg said of the women who choose to fund raise and represent.

(For the ladies who feel half the fun/challenge is in faking it, is just the tip of the faux facial hair iceberg.)

FUNrazors: "These are participants who either don't want to shave an existing beard, or can't grow a beard because of work or relationship constraints," Yerg said. "They participate in strictly a fundraising capacity."

Each category has its own award for fundraising, given at the campaign finale, Yerg said.

"We also have a beard judging contest with awards for the best and worst. (We name) a Most Valuable Grower, who may not have raised raised the most money, but did the most throughout the campaign: representing us and doing their part as far as advocacy is concerned."

Each Beards BeCAUSE campaign typically has between 50 and 75 participants, Yerg said, noting there is no minimum fundraising requirement.

"We started a grassroots, blue-collar campaign for a reason. A lot of good people in the community can't afford $100-a-plate dinners, galas, balls," Yerg said.

"We just ask everyone do their best and try and be on the forefront as far as advocacy is concerned."

Can't make it on Friday night? Registration will remain open for about two weeks after.

Participants are encouraged to hold their own fundraising events - there's already a local CrossFit marathon and self-defense class planned - and the group's website will keep an updated calendar of events.

Yerg said there will also be the occasional "Five o'clock Shadow" party at The Thirsty Beaver that participants can look forward to throughout the campaign.

Want to learn more?

Go to the Beards BeCause website; Facebook page and follow @BeardsBeCAUSE on Twitter.