Junior hosts second annual ‘Movember’ fundraiser

Junior Austen Smith has raised nearly $5,000 this month in support of the Movember Foundation.

Austen Smith

Junior Austen Smith has raised nearly $5,000 this month in support of the Movember Foundation.

Junior hosts second annual

Hanna Schiciano, TBN Executive Producer

Masters junior Austen Smith held his second annual “Movember” (Australian influenced abbreviation for mustache November) fundraiser last month to raise awareness for men’s health issues. The foundation combines focuses on three cause areas: mental health and suicide prevention, prostate cancer and testicular cancer. Approximately 80 percent of suicides are committed by men, according to Movember.

Smith has raised $4,797 through in-person and online donations from both the Middle and Upper School. Fake mustaches were handed-out on the lower level of the Dining Hall on Nov. 11. This year, Smith said that he wanted to emphasize that a donation was not required to receive a mustache in order to increase community engagement with the cause. Any donation amount was appreciated. 

A Sydney, Australia native, Smith said this cause is well-known in his home country. Movember was founded in Melbourne, Australia by Travis Garone and Luke Slattery. 

“I saw a lot of athletes doing it [in Australia] and why they were doing it, as well as big stadiums that had the Movember Foundation on the boundaries. This is something that’s really powerful over here, so I thought maybe we can bring it over [to Masters],” he said. 

During remote learning in Sydney, Smith first heard of the foundation from one of his friends whose family member had been affected by prostate cancer.

“After learning more about the program, I wondered, ‘Why isn’t there any program for this here at Masters? I’ve never heard about these problems before around men’s health,” Smith said. 

He said that social stigma has contributed to the lack of awareness about men’s mental health issues. 

According to Physician Consultant Dr. Raymond Hobbs at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, “A lot of guys don’t want to admit they have this problem. They still see depression as a sign of weakness,” per Healthline

Upper School math teacher Michael Comerford grew facial hair last year in support of Movember. He said that the mustaches bring levity to the foundation’s mission. 

“It’s a visual way to see that you’re supporting and it’s also something you can do along with other people and you can kind of embarrass each other together,” Comerford said. “[Movember] makes it seem that if you do have health problems, you’re not alone.”

Smith said that the importance of this issue needed to be shared with the Masters community, especially since there is a mental health club on campus. Smith added that he was also inspired by the women in his life who were advocating for women’s health.

“Suicide has touched my family in some way, so that was one of the reasons why it really impacted me to start [this fundraiser],” he said. 

Smith said that Movember at Masters allows the community to do something fun while also spreading an important message.

“We can grow really bad mustaches and have an excuse to do it and have those conversations especially around a Thanksgiving table where you’ve got family members,” Smith said. 

Fellow junior Jake Mason said that he is very supportive of the work Smith has done with Movember and has been an avid participant. Mason said that he enjoys growing out his facial hair when given a reason to do so. 

“One of my uncle’s was an alcoholic, which eventually ended up killing him. His mental health kind of went down from his teenage years, so I feel like I’m representing him in a way,” he said. 

Smith said that the act of growing a mustache sparks a conversation and raises awareness for the campaign. Additionally, Movember instructs participants to embrace their facial hair as many cancer patients experience hair loss: “You don’t have to grow to save a bro,” he said.