Challenge: Grow a Beard; Help Cure Lung Cancer
Jenny Overman, April 3, 2012
FORT MILL — Andrew Mehlhouse didn’t give much thought to the plight of people with lung cancer until a neighbor’s mother was diagnosed. Now, he is dedicated to the cause, hoping to help people struggling with a disease he says isn’t getting the fundraising dollars it needs. “Really, the stigma of lung cancer has inhibited a lot of fundraising,” Mehlhouse said. “I decided I really wanted to get involved and rebalance those fundraising scales a bit.”
Mehlhouse created a website, www.growforthecure.org, he hopes will be a win for funding lung cancer research and treatment. The site encourages people to register to become “growers,” and grow a beard or mustache or make a donation to a grower.
“Growers” can register on the site, which helps them send information about donating to family and friends. People can log on and donate to a specific mustache or beard style. At the end of the growing period, either two or four weeks, the grower shaves his beard to the style that receives the most donations and posts an “after” picture.
The nine possible styles range from the humorous, the Fu Manchu, to the truly hilarious, the Mutton Chops. Mary Reese, Mehlhouse’s inspiration for starting the site, died Dec. 26, but she knew Mehlhouse’s plans for Grow for the Cure before she passed away. She loved the idea of having fun and raising funds at the same time, said her son-in-law Brian Smith. “She was a fun loving person and thought it was great,” Smith said. “It’s a serious cause but it’s also fun.”
The idea for growing a beard for a good cause came after many of the men in Mehlhouse’s office received a lot of attention for growing a winter-time beard. Mehlhouse thought that growing a beard might be fun and inspire donations. “The walks are successful, but they are ubiquitous now. I wanted to find something fun to hopefully get a lot of people involved,” Mehlhouse said.
Donations made to the growers will go to the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation, a nonprofit that has raised more than $9 million for Lung Cancer research. The group focuses on funding programs and projects that promote early detection, genetic testing, drug discovery and patient-focused outcomes, according to their website.
More than 450 people a day die from lung cancer, according to the Lung Cancer Foundation, and someone is diagnosed every three minutes. Funding for lung cancer is out of line with funding for research into other cancers, according to the foundation, with $1 spent on lung cancer for every $9 spent on breast cancer. “Mary never smoked a day in her life, and that really stuck with me,” Mehlhouse said.
That’s not unusual, according to the Lung Cancer Foundation, which reports that 60 percent of newly diagnosed lung cancer patients either never smoked or quit smoking more than 10 years before their diagnosis.
“The big picture is that we need to get the word out that anyone can get lung cancer, you don’t have to smoke,” Mehlhouse said. “We have to work on getting rid of the smoking stigma and treat it like any other cancer and get out there and work on some treatments.” Seeing family and friends sign up as growers and donators to Grow for the Cure has meant a lot to Reese’s family, and they hope that more people are inspired to help the cause.
“It is really touching that what was going on with my family affected [Mehlhouse] so much. It means a lot to mean that he would do something like this,” said Kari Smith, Reese’s daughter. “I would love for this to get national attention and for people all over to contribute and be aware of what lung cancer does, and bring more attention to the cause.”
For more information about Grow for the Cure, go to www.growforthecure.org or email Mehlhouse at [email protected]