By: Hailey Temple
|The SIDEARM Sports website features mustache progress pictures of Rubin and Kirkegaard.|
‘No-Shave November’ has fast become a tradition across the country, as men skip their daily regimen and compete to grow the best mustache among friends and colleagues. As the men of SIDEARM Sports, the company run by School of Information Studies (iSchool) Associate Professor of Practice Jeffrey Rubin, saw their five-o-clock shadows take fuzzy styles of their own, they felt that they could use their ‘stache-growing power to do more.
For Chris Kirkegaard, SIDEARM creative director and adjunct professor at the iSchool, their mustaches presented an opportunity to make a difference for those who suffered from cancer.
When Kirkegaard’s mother lost her battle against cancer in June 2011, he approached Rubin to use the contest as a fundraiser for others fighting the disease.
“After losing my mom to cancer, I wanted to get back at it somehow. I thought that this was the best chance for us to help and at least do something to beat it. Our staff and clients were willing to look awful for a month to help this amazing cause,” said Kirkegaard.
During their first year, SIDEARM Sports raised over $6,000 and donated the proceeds to Movember, an organization that raises money and awareness for men’s health issues. Excited about their success, they decided to bring the fundraiser back for a second year. That was when they learned about Rex Fleming.
Fleming, who was diagnosed with brain cancer at age 8, was the son of Abilene Christian University’s Assistant Director Athletics Media Relations Lance Fleming and a client of SIDEARM Sports. Fleming kept a blog throughout Rex’s treatment to keep friends and family informed. In late October, the Fleming family was informed that Rex’s latest treatments were ineffective and offered a dismal prognosis: just a few weeks left to live.
For Rubin, a father of two, the personal connection he felt with Fleming after reading his blog motivated him to help. “I felt compelled to help. You believe ‘he’s a kid, he wont die, he will get through this.’ As years went on, you see he’s getting worse and you just cry. You can’t imagine losing a child. There’s no pain much deeper,” said Rubin.
In an effort to support the Fleming family, SIDEARM made it a mission to raise money to give to Rex’s parents. However, this year’s contest would expand beyond SIDEARM Sports to clients at other colleges and universities across the nation. To get support from other athletics programs, Rubin published a blog post about SIDEARM Sport’s contest and fundraiser on College Sports Information Director of America’s website. This blog post generated interest from colleges including Temple University, St. Edward’s University, University of Indianapolis, and Washburn University.
“The CoSIDA community sees each other throughout the year and knows each other well because we feel each other’s pains and are excited for successes and student athletes. Although we are competitors on the field, we come together to help each other. Their support with this fundraiser has been overwhelming,” said Rubin.
122 competitors began the competition clean-shaven. Throughout the month, these men used their mustache-growing power to garner support and donations. With the support of iSchool faculty and the CoSIDA community, Rubin saw thousands of dollars pour into the fundraiser daily. Participants share their stories over Facebook as they competed to raise money and win several contests held throughout the month, including “School Spirit Stache,” “Most Famous Stache,” “Thanksgiving Stache” and the coveted “Best Overall Stache.” Women could also get involved by taking photos of themselves using print out mustaches provided by SIDEAM Sport’s website.
Rubin did not widely advertise the fundraiser, but rather relied on the power of the mustache and these connections to keep the fundraised alive: “I am generally clean-shaven, so people would ask about the mustache constantly. The mustache looks awkward and the story behind the fundraiser is uncomfortable, but I would share the story with anyone willing to listen.”
As November was coming to an end, SIDEARM Sports found out that Rex Fleming lost his battle with cancer and passed away on November 25.
For SIDEARM Sports and the college sports industry, this loss motivated the SIDARM Sports and its clients to help more. “We hoped it wouldn’t happen, but we knew losing Rex was a possibility. It caused all of us to push for more donations and to honor this awesome little boy who fought so hard,” said Kirkegaard.
Between the fundraising and SIDEARM Sport’s dollar-for-dollar donations, the company raised $16,106.00 by the end of November. Rubin plans to present the check to Lance Fleming at the 2013 CoSIDA Conference in July. Funds will most likely go toward a college fund in Rex’s name or to Cook’s Children Hospital, where Rex was treated for cancer. Thanks to help from Manny’s Quality SU Clothing, SIDEARM Sports is also selling shirts for $10 to go toward Rex’s fund.
Rubin is proud of his clients and company for their success, but still hopes to do more: “Raising money and growing facial hair is nothing compared to losing and burying a child, but this is the least we could do. I wish we could do more to ease their pain. At the same time this is a way for SIDEARM as a company to unite once a year to do something that’s good in the world.”
If you would like to donate to SIDEARM Sport’s fundraiser or purchase a shirt, please go to http://mustache.sidearmsports.com/ for more information.