November became Movember this year for Daniel Falkman, a social studies teacher and Key Club advisor at East Islip High School, who raised awareness and over $365 in funding to support men’s health issues, solely through the birth and death of a mustache.
During the month-long period of Movember, participants like Falkman agreed to grow mustaches and forgo shaving them. The ensuing attention and joking in turn sparked much-needed conversations about male cancer risks. As he began his tonsorial adventure, Falkman declared, “I have joined the Movember movement and will be donating my upper lip to the cause for 30 days, all in the name of raising vital awareness and funds for cancers affecting men. Funds that will help make a tangible difference to the lives of others. Through the Movember Foundation and their men’s health partners, the Prostate Cancer Foundation and LIVESTRONG, this event funds world-class awareness, research, and educational and support programs which would otherwise not be possible.”
Falkman’s students were given the opportunity to donate a dollar and color in a picture of a historical figure with truly memorable facial hair. He noted that science-oriented students chose Einstein and English students picked Mark Twain, while the young historians went for Civil War general Ambrose Burnside, whose definitive "sideburns" coined the term. “Our Key Club is always looking for ways to help in our community as well as looking at problems that face our world. As advisor to the Key Club, I wanted to lead by example,” he said. “To put it simply, if I can donate my mustache, then they should be able to donate a dollar.”
On December 1, a bemused and occasionally raucous group of students and faculty gathered in East Islip’s auditorium after school to watch Falkman shave off his ‘stache. After a brief but effective speech explaining the goals of Movember and the need for additional donations, he lathered up and attacked the bushy growth with both scissors and razor before the mustache was finally defeated.
“For many, the thrill is what the mustache will look like when it grows in,” Falkman explained before the event. “For me, the anticipation is in wondering what I will look like when it’s gone.” He had last shaved his face almost a year before, as a 2010 Christmas present for his mustache-hating wife. Falkman’s daughter, however, was kind enough to kiss it goodnight – and goodbye – the evening before the shaving.
Fundraising to help fight deadly diseases is nothing new for the determined educator. “When I was in kindergarten, I participated in a multiple sclerosis read-a-thon, raising money from friends and family, and I can still feel that sense of pride that I felt doing something for others. When I was in my twenties, my father was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and sadly passed away from the disease a few years later,” Falkman said.
While the spectacle of one man shaving his whiskers might not appear newsworthy on the face of it, Falkman knows his hairy Movember journey meant something. “Even though my mustache might seem insignificant,” he said with a wink, “it is not the size of the mustache that counts, it’s what you do with it."