James White’s Floyd Dryden Middle School employee ID shows his face as it normally is —adorned with a neat, full beard.
However, those who see the outdoor life skills and physical education teacher in the halls this week will be greeted by facial follicles that would make Burt Reynolds and Tom Selleck proud.
White spearheaded and is participating in an ongoing Movember fundraising effort at the middle school. Movember is a charity that challenges men to grow mustaches in November and raises both awareness funds for prostate and testicular cancers as well as mental health and suicide prevention.
“The icon of Movember is the mustache,” White said in an interview. “It’s an easy way to talk about men’s health, cancers that affect men, mental health, serious stuff.”
White said some playful facial hair helps start difficult conversations with students or introduce dark statistics. This is the first year he’s led Movember events and fundraising at Floyd Dryden.
He said the month-long campaign began on Halloween with an assembly in which he provided some “scary” statistics to students.
For example, across the world one man dies by suicide every minute, according to Movember, about 25% of men have mental health problems and cancer mortality is more common in men than women, according to the National Cancer Institute. For men, that figure is 196.8 per 100,000; and for women, it’s 139.6 per 100,000.
One Movember program that White said has been popular with staff who can’t or choose not to grow a mustache is known simply as Move, and it is inspired by one of those statistics.
The program tasks participants with running or walking 60 miles in November. The number is a direct reference to men who die by suicide each hour.
“It’s a way for people without mustaches to participate in what’s going on,” White said.
Other aspects of Movember are less dour and more mustache-oriented.
Fake mustaches have been sold at the school’s front office as a way to raise money for the Movember team. mustaches have also been and given away as prizes in activities, White said. Some fun Movember events highlighted by White include pin the mustache on the Lorax, mustache trivia and games.
Friday, while playing cornhole and shooting hoops in the gym, many middle-schoolers could be seen wearing ersatz whiskers. To be dismissed, groups of students had to pantomime a sinister mustache twirl, too.
There’s one more bit of fun that could close out the Movember effort.
If the Floyd Dryden Movember team raises $1,000, principal Jim Thompson will allow White to shave Thompson’s beard during a school assembly. Donations to the team can be made online at https://moteam.co/fdms-mos?mc=1, and donations will be accepted through the month.
“I appreciate what Mr. White has done here, building community but also creating awareness of men’s health,” Thompson said in an interview. “If we get $1,000, we’re going to have a pep assembly, and Mr. White gets to shave my mustache into whatever shape he sees fit.”
White said while meeting the fundraising goal would be nice since the money would go to a good cause, it’s secondary to bringing attention to men’s health and mental health.
“It’s about the awareness,” White said.
• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt