It was early February, and the beard had grown out of control. People told me I looked homeless. If I chewed my food, I chewed it with hair. If I drank anything, a layer stayed behind on my mustache. The sports editor at the newspaper never missed a chance to ask when I was getting rid of it. And co-workers at my new company were wondering if I actually did have a face under there.
OK, so that's a little melodramatic. I grew a beard. And the reason I grew a beard, to help cure childhood cancer? Yeah, those kids have a lot more to worry about than I ever did. All I did was get up in the morning and not shave.
As of the shave date, the Josh's Beard project had raised $2,679 for the St. Baldrick's Foundation (some donations and t-shirt sales are still outstanding). The Kitty Hoynes event on Sunday drew over $300,000 for the foundation.
It was amazing.
For my part, I have some thank yous to make for some individual fundraisers.
Here's the deal: $2.50 per cupcake (order online), you pick 'em up, Jen puts the proceeds toward St. Baldrick's, which makes grants to help fight cancer in children. You can get more info, including a link to order cupcakes via Paypal, on Jen's blog.
That's a long way from my $25,000 goal, but it feels like a milestone. I had been ramping up the project for three weeks, and had been telling friends and family members about it, but talking about the vision is a lot different from getting it implemented.
There are two things I learned right away about getting people to give. The first is you have to make it easy. I managed to filter people to the photo/video blog, but people didn't get that you had to click the text that says "St. Baldrick's Foundation" on the right. That brings you to a page, and then you click donate from there.
So I added a big red "Donate Now" link in the upper right, which actually takes you to the page where you donate. Much easier.
The second is that people love this project. They will tell everybody about it, and in multiple channels. That doesn't mean they have the inclination – or ability – to give. So that's going to be the bigger challenge, I think.
I recorded a new video yesterday asking people to give $18 (it will go on the tumblelog tomorrow). It's the amount represented by the Hebrew word for life. And several people did give.
Another challenge I'm going to face is actually a positive one. I have friends who are going to do it as well. My friend Kim did the event last year; I don't know if she plans to do it again. My friends Lorelei and (another) Kim are also going bald in 2010. So, donations are going to be split. Which is OK with me. I wound up just giving at the event last year, since I had so many friends who were having their heads shaved I couldn't afford to give to everyone's.
What can you do to help?
Well, the obvious answer is donate. But spreading the word is important. I don't need page views or thumbs-up (though it's always nice to hear that what you're doing is appreciated); I need to get in front of eyes that will donate. Send people to JoshsBeard.tumblr.com; get them to be fans of the Facebook page (and become one yourself).
If you know business owners, authors, musicians, what have you – I'm totally willing to work out an "advertising exchange" – they make an agreed-upon minimum donation, I'll hold up a copy of their book or CD, or flyer, or mention their business in a video. Have them email me.
And of course, follow me on Twitter, I mention it a lot there, and there's always a link to that day's photo.
Nobody likes cancer, least of all when it happens in children. The St. Baldrick's Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that makes grants for research into cancer in children. Some of that money has stayed right here in Syracuse, other money has been granted to hospitals elsewhere across the U.S.
St. Baldrick's signature event is a fundraiser during which people get pledges to have their head shaved. While I'll certainly have my head shaved alongside, I'm launching a social media effort to raise money to shave my beard at the Syracuse event. There is not yet a firm date, but it takes place each year in late March at Kitty Hoynes in Armory Square.
The 2009 event raised nearly $295,000 as 502 had their heads and beards shaved.
If you've met me, you know you're not likely to give lots of money to see my hair disappear. There's not much of it to begin with. But I want to work with all of you – and all of your friends and contacts – to help raise $25,000 to get rid of my beard.
I am posting daily photos and weekly videos at JoshsBeard.tumblr.com. You can see the growth of the beard, and hear how we're doing.
If you have a business, a book, a CD, a video, a t-shirt, a hat or anything else you want to see me hold up or wear in a photo or video, email me at mail (at) joshshear (dot) com and we'll discuss a donation.
If you want me to dye my beard pink, tie blue ribbons in it, or otherwise desecrate my beard in a photo or video, do the same: email me, and we'll figure out what your donation should be.
Kim Hurlbut was my first roommate in Syracuse when I moved here in August of 2003. I lived with her through some rough times for both of us, and, let's be honest, when I moved out in February 2005, we weren't on the best of terms.
But as time went by, we've grown back into casual friendship – we don't see each other much, but we get along fine when we do (we actually see each other on purpose, too, which is a good thing).
Kim became a hero of sorts on Sunday when she took the radical step of shaving of her hair in the name of charity.
We won't do the psychological thing here, primarily because she and I didn't talk about it. For some women, this is a really big deal. For others, eh, it'll grow back.
Kim's hair was long enough that she also collected a donation to Locks of Love, which takes donations of 10 or more inches of hair to make wigs for children who have lost their hair due to cancer treatment.
Syracuse establishment Kitty Hoynes hosts the St. Baldrick's event every year. They have two rooms with four-to-five chairs, and a bunch of hair professionals stand on their feet all day and shave head after head.
This was my first year attending, and it's a fantastic atmosphere. Yes, the bar makes lots of money on beer and booze, but rather than serve food, they have a hot dog stand out back. It's clearly not a once-in-a-while publicity stunt. The restaurant had a team raise a bunch of money (and at least one of the workers wound up having a hair-based practical joke played on him), and was generally supportive of everyone who walked into the place, paying customer or not.
This is a great event. I'll definitely be back, and maybe next year I'll remember to not shave my head and beard within a week of it so that I can participate!