Long before men’s health charities and hipsters commandeered the mustache and watered down its shock value, a group of Ottawa men has been parading around town with upper lip whiskers for a single month of the year to raise funds for those generally told to stay away from men with creepy mustaches.
M4K Ottawa, otherwise known as Mustaches for Kids, celebrates its, ahem, 10th anniversary, this month in the hopes of raising another $20,000 for Make-a-Wish Eastern Ontario, a charity that grants area kids with life-threatening medical conditions a dream of a lifetime.
So far, M4K has raised more than $200,000, helped grant some 20 wishes and made countless women across the Nation’s Capital cringe at the very sight of their facial faux pas.
Apartment613 sat down with Brett Tackaberry and Trevor Kealey, two of M4K’s organizers, to find out more about the annual charitable event. The following is an edited transcript of that conversation.
So, this is your 10th anniversary?
Brett: If you do some really deep diving investigative journalism you’ll find that it’s our 11th year but we’re celebrating our 10th now because we missed it last year.
Trevor: Somebody pointed out at the end of last year, ‘why didn’t we do something big for our 10th year.’ We said no, it was our ninth.
Brett: . . . and then we did the math.
Anything special planned now that you’ve sorted that out?
Brett: This year we relaxed the rules in celebration of our (air quote) 10th year.
Trevor: If a guy wants to grow a beard for a month and then just shave it into a mustache on the last day, fine. Do it. If a guy wants to show up with a naked face, fine. As long as you raise some money, you can participate.
Does this oversight suggest alcohol plays a role in your campaign?
Brett: Well, ya. (The guys meet up every Friday at the House of Targ to share a pint or several, compare crumb catchers and catch up on lost time. While the initiative was started by a group of Carleton University engineering grads who found jobs and were looking to give back, it’s since expanded through word of mouth – there are currently about 65 participants – and many of the guys only see each other once a year during the campaign.)
Tell me about your partnership with the House of Targ?
Brett: It suits. As long as they’ve been opened, that’s the place. Beer and arcade and mustaches – it goes hand in hand, like it was made for each other.
(The bar, known for pinball, punk and perogies, donates the proceeds of WWF Wrestlefest “because there’s tonnes of mustaches on it,” says Trevor. It amounts to a few hundred bucks, though the bar kicks in a little extra and even pulled together a video about the initiative last year. Before Targ opened, M4K met at various bars and held its Stache Bash at the Legion.)
What’s the Stache Bash?
(In a nutshell, it’s the culmination of four weeks of growing, trimming, shaping and raising funds. Many guys dress up as a mustachioed character and compete for the title of “Sweetest Stache,” which comes with bragging rights and a sexy man sash. Past winners include Robert Goulet, Captain Jack Sparrow, Cliff Claven, Del Griffith, Cap ’N Crunch and Alex Trebek. Bigger prizes go to the top fundraisers with the biggest, two tickets anywhere Westjet flies, going to the individual who raises the most money.)
Trevor: It’s not competition, it’s a celebration. Except there’s a winner at the end.
Brett: It’s a pageant. Like Miss Canada.
(Participants are also judged on the sound their stache makes when grazed by a microphone, the ability of their mo to retain beer foam and touch – as determined by a blindfolded judge. There’s also an upper lip dance off.)
Trevor: It could get pretty wild. One guy unbuttoned his entire outfit and he’s standing there in a mustache and a bikini.
Brett: (Another) showed up with a pair of balls on his chin. That was the last year I invited my parents to the Stache Bash. The guys at Make-a-Wish at one time said ‘maybe we should bring some of the Make-a-Wish kids. We were like no, no. We’ll give you money, just keep the kids away.
How did M4K Ottawa get started?
“We used to do exam beards in university and then have a shave off party,” says Trevor, noting they wanted to turn it into a charitable event once they graduated and landed decent jobs. “Somebody looked up charity mustaches on the Internet,” he says, adding that’s when they discovered M4K, a “loosely connected” group of mustache growers with chapters across North America that raise funds for various local children’s charities.
Of all the charities you could support, why Make-a-Wish?
Brett: It happened because Mustaches for Kids in New York was doing Children’s Wish so we reached out to our local chapter. After that we developed a pretty close bond with the people who were running it and they’ve become kind of like a family. We started being in involved in the wishes. We go to the gala. They’re local kids. They’re kids down the street in the neighbourhood. You raise the money and it goes directly into their hands.
How often do people ask if you’re participating in Movember?
Trevor: There was a two-three year window when it was like ‘no, were NOT doing Movember but were doing this other thing . . .
Brett: It’s less and less. In meetings five years ago during work, people would say: ‘You have a mustache, what’s going on?’ Now you walk in with a moustache and there’s not even a question.
Why not just have your campaign during a different month?
“We did the opposite,” Trevor says. “We switched from December to November because that first year, the question I got was ‘why do you have a moustache now? Movember is over.’” Instead of explaining that he was growing a stache for a different charity only to be told by donors that they were tapped out having already contributed to the Movember campaign, M4K decided to “switch our month to match up with them.”
How do you feel about the prostate cancer folks commandeering the stache?
Brett: You lose your identity a little bit but our thing didn’t decrease in size because of it. People will give to that but then they will also give to children. We’re not in competition.
Trevor: I just like to see people engaged in giving money, engaged in their community and giving money to something.
Do you resent hipsters for saturating the mustache market?
Brett: No, you resent hipsters for being hipsters but you can’t resent them for stealing the mustache. It is what it is.
Trevor: If we can engage them, that would be good.
To donate to M4K, visit their website. To find out who will win this year’s Sweetest Stache sash, head over to the House of Targ Friday at 7 p.m. for the annual Stache Bash.