'Beardtober': Raising the banner for right to grow facial hair
GRAND FORKS -- Jason Carey's interest in growing a beard has grown way beyond what he ever could have envisioned, he said.
It's grown into a mission to celebrate the bearded face, linked with a way to support the local Circle of Friends Humane Society.
A few years ago, the Grand Forks man and his friends were talking about how men should not be denied the right to grow facial hair by wives, girlfriends or employers.
"I should be able to grow a beard and not get flak for it," he said.
What began as kind of a local joke evolved into a campaign when Carey and his friends declared October as "Beardtober," a month dedicated to facial-hair freedom.
"Last year, we invited others to join us," Carey said. Through Facebook, Beardtober attracted more than 260 like-minded folks around the country.
Bearded men post photos of themselves, beard-related humor and pictures that show the progression of beard growth.
There are no rules to participate, Carey said. Beards may be trimmed to a narrow line, shaved to a goatee or left to grow naturally.
"People put on pictures that you don't see a lot on Facebook." And it's not just men who've taken up the cause, he said. "We have more female members than male in support."
While he won't go as far as to say beards make a man look sexier, he said, it may explain the majority female interest.
"It's kind of a George Clooney thing. It's fun for the guys. I think they enjoy getting comments from the ladies on how much more distinguished and attractive they look."
He's concluded that "women like facial hair and like to see it once in a while."
Support for humane society
This year, the local Beardtober group decided "if we have that many people, let's take it to the next level," he said. "Let's do something for the greater good."
So, a fundraising goal has been added, with members voting on which charity should receive the funds. The Circle of Friends Humane Society in Grand Forks was chosen.
Carey designed a logo to imprint on T-shirts which are being sold for $20 each to raise funds. The group also offers an online donation site where 100 percent of the proceeds go to the human society, he said.
"It's amazing how many people want to support it," he said. In addition to area friends, others have signed on from California, Arizona, Massachusetts and North Carolina.
The group has set a goal of $1,000 but, as of early October, donations had exceeded $700, Carey said. "I just want to see it get as big as it can."
He and his family are animal lovers and have adopted pets from the humane society, he said. "They rely on a lot of volunteer effort."
The example he's setting for his two teenage children is important, too, he said.
"I want to show my kids, you may be one person, but you can do something with your life. They know, when October is coming, dad's going to grow a beard."
Celebrating the beard may also help change any less-than-positive connotations that some may harbor, he said.
"There are times when a beard may give off a certain stereotype about a person."
He's noticed some negativity about beards in past professional jobs, he said. His current employer is "absolutely" supportive.
With Beardtober, "it's been fun" to see an assortment of men, including lawyers and truck drivers, grow beards, he said. "It's wonderful to see how people have embraced it, especially for the (humane society) cause."
Carey doesn't sport a beard all year long, he said. When he does grow one, he likes that it gives him "a different look."
Repeat customers at Home of Economy, where he sells furniture sometimes, don't recognize him if they haven't been in for a while, he said.
"I tell them I'm raising funds for the humane society. It's wonderful the reaction I get."
Funding animal care
Arlette Moen, executive director of the Circle of Friends Humane Society in Grand Forks, said she was a bit surprised -- but grateful -- that her organization was selected as the beneficiary of the fundraising effort.
"We've never been approached from that perspective before," she said.
"It's a fun thing, and we're happy he chose us -- as long as he didn't require us to grow beards," she said, with a chuckle. "That would have been a problem."
The humane society intends to promote Beardtober on its Facebook page along with other events, Moen said.
Money raised through Beardtober will be combined with proceeds from other fundraising efforts and used to cover animals' medical expenses, she said.
"A lot of pets come through here with special medical needs, whether it's antibiotics or amputation," she said. "It's gifts like this that keep us going and help us continue to do what we do."
Carey said Beardtober will continue, probably with another theme and beneficiary.
"It's grown into something more than I thought it would be. I didn't realize how many people like the look of beards."