From Whiskers To 11 Years of Growth, The Amazing Journey Of Lacrosse Mustache Madness
(PHILADELPHIA) – Over the past 11 years college lacrosse players from across the country have been tossing their razors and growing a mustache in honor of those affected by cancer.
Lacrosse Mustache Madness supporting the HEADstrong Foundation has grown immensely each and every year both in terms of growers and money raised. Since 2009, more than 12,000 collegiate student-athletes, representing more than 200 colleges and universities have participated in Lacrosse Mustache Madness.
Additionally, the campaign has engaged more than 24,701 donors having raised more than $1,413,284.75 to support families overcome by cancer and fund nights at Nick’s House for families displaced in the pursuit of treatment.
This year, organizers hope to raise more than $315,000 in honor of the 315,000 families whose lives will be flipped upside down due to a cancer diagnosis during the 6 week campaign.
Let’s take a trip down memory lane to when the Lacrosse Mustache Madness began.
It all started with two guys, Ken Clausen and Todd Faiella in a dorm room at the University of Virginia in the fall of 2009. The summer before the fall semester, Ken was vacationing in Fiji and the Austrailian guys sitting next to him on the plane noticed his mustache tattoo on his finger. They asked Ken if he had heard of a movement gaining traction in which facial hair was being used to support important social causes. It was in that moment that a light went off in Ken’s head, “I knew this was something that could translate into the lacrosse world.” remarked Ken.
Ken was a standout lacrosse player at the University of Virginia and knew his presence in the lacrosse world would help him get this idea up and running. Ken and Todd sat down and brainstormed up a proposal and knew this could be something great. At the time, their athletic trainer Rebecca Vozzo’s father had recently passed away from prostate cancer and had done a previous fundraiser at Quinnipiac University. Rebecca helped the guys set up the first website and get the ball rolling on what would end up being Lacrosse Mustache Madness as we know it today.
In year 2 of the campaign, Ken and Todd partnered up with the HEADstrong Foundation, recognizing a special connection to the cause rooted in the sport. Clausen grew up in Downingtown, PA and was familiar with HEADstrong and the Colleluori family who were also from the Philadelphia suburbs.
There were many parallels between Ken and HEADstrong founder Nick Colleluori and partnering with the foundation made perfect sense. “We had a connection. Nick was a defenseman, I was a defenseman, I wore #27 Nick wore #27. Nick and I even shared the same birthday (10/19). It was a sign that this is what we’re supposed to do with this” recalled Ken.
When Clausen learned that Colleluori actually grew a mustache in the last weeks of his life in protest to his declining health while serving as a way to deflect negative attention from his apparent ailing condition and significant weight loss, the campaign took on a whole new meaning and an inspirational backstory that lacrosse players would instantly identify with.
Ken and Todd had just graduated college and knew they needed help steering this campaign in the right direction. That’s when HEADstrong stepped in to help take the campaign to unprecedented heights. HEADstrong’s Chief Development Officer and Nick’s Brother Pat Colleluori, joined the Lacrosse Mustache team and began to drive the campaign administratively.
“One of the most important aspects of the campaign was the integration of our online fundraising platform and the evolution of social media in general. These ingredients paired with competition, communication, contests and strategic planning have truly allowed us to manage relationships on the most personal level, educate supporters and allow us to cast a wide net focused on empowering student-athletes to fully comprehend the scope of our mission and the impact of their generosity” said Pat Colleluori.
At the suggestion of the HEADstrong Foundation it was proposed that the campaign begin on October 19th, both Ken and Nick’s birthday and run through November 28th, Thanksgiving and the anniversary of Colleluori’s untimely passing. It also enabled participants more time to assemble and execute upon their fundraising goals.
Simultaneously, HEADstrong has been able to share the stories of families who have benefited from the efforts and each year rally around student-athletes currently fighting cancer. The genuineness and authenticity of the campaign of the cause, the family leading the charge and backstory have continued to inspire more than a decade of athletes to carry the ball where Colleluori left off.
Ben Kaminow a Syracuse alumni, is just one of the many participants and contributors who have been part of Lacrosse Mustache Madness since its inception. In 2009, while attending a coaches clinic at Hofstra University, Coach Seth Tierney took Ben and the other coaches into the Pride’s locker room and showed them, HEADstrong founder Nick Colleluori’s locker. He then read a letter that Colleluori wrote to his team prior to his passing. “Overwhelming, like all of a sudden it became something that I wanted to be involved with. I immediately reached out to Cheryl.” said Ben. Ben’s father in law was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, which made his involvement with Lacrosse Mustache Madness that much more meaningful. “It really amped up my fundraising efforts. I was the top fundraiser 3 times, and last year I came in 3rd place overall.” Ben said.
Clausen, Faiella and Kaminow aren’t playing the game anymore, but the trio stays connected to their love of lacrosse through being part of Lacrosse Mustache Madness every year and encourages everyone to join in on the campaign. “I still do it today, I’ve done it every year since the start and won it a couple times, I love it.” said Todd Faiella. ”It’s a pretty easy way to help raise money for something that’s so important that helps so many people. This could help a family and a kid that’s going through a world of pain, it’s a no brainer for me.”
The Founding Father of Lacrosse Mustache Madness, Ken Clausen took some time to provide some tips for those who want to join in but might be a little hesitant to get growing. It’s not just for college guys, if cancer has affected you in some way, shape or form you can ditch your razor too and sign up for Lacrosse Mustache Madness.
“It’s tangible, you can see where the money goes and what they’re doing with it, you see Cole Neville, a 19-year old student-athlete from the University at Albany who is currently battling cancer.. It’s not too complicated once you see what HEADstrong is doing, visually seeing who we’re helping, seems to be a no brainer once people see the impact that it’s making. It becomes something that people want to be involved in.”
The Stache Master’s first tip is just getting out there and registering either as an individual, for your alma mater, or creating your own team. “Don’t be timid, people want to support good causes and want to support the initiative. If you put it out there, you’re going to get something. No amount is too little” said Clausen.
Lax Stache is a fun and light hearted campaign, get creative with your growing. “Show people your mustache, when they see that you are engaged and that you are doing this, people are more willing to support it.” remarked Ken.
But his most important tip? Don’t do anything for free! “By the end of the campaign, people might get sick of their mustache, we always tell them if you’re going to shave it early, don’t shave it for free.”
Interested in growing your own stache to help those affected by cancer? Visit www.LaxStacheMadness.com and wear your mustache proudly!
For more information on the HEADstrong Foundation please visit www.HEADstrong.org.