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UI students grow beards for breast cancer research awareness

BY BRIANNA JETT | NOVEMBER 29, 2012 6:30 AM

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November brings the growth of many things at the University of Iowa — beards and passion alike.
A year after its founding, the “Beards for Boobies” campaign, started by University of Iowa students, is welcoming enormous change and growth.

“This year, it has really changed,” said Mike Greeby, a cofounder of the “Beards for Boobies” initiative. “A lot of people are supporting us in a bigger way.”

Their fundraising and efforts will culminate in a celebration at 5 p.m. on Dec. 6.

“Beards for Boobies” began in November 2011with a simple challenge — seeing who can grow the best beard during the month of November. The challenge morphed into a bidding pool, with all the money to be donated to a foundation. Cofounder Corey Collins’ mother, who suffered from breast cancer, inspired the group to start the campaign.

The death of Collins’ mother in the middle of last year’s campaign did not derail the group.

“Unfortunately, Corey’s mom passed away mid-month, and it became really sentimental for us,” Greeby said. “I think that’s when the movement really got momentum. It was more than a cause.”

In November 2011, “November to Remember” was coined in memorial to Collins’ mother. This month is expanded to let anyone who has lost someone honor their loved one.

“Yes, that did happen to my mom,” Collins said. “But at the same time, other people have gone through the same type of experience I did. This year we are really focused on remembering all of those people who have been lost.”

The “Beards for Boobies” campaign raises money for cancer research by selling T-shirts and wristbands. Those interested can buy items and donate at beardsforboobies.com. Last year, the group donated roughly $2,000 to breast-cancer research. This year, they hope to achieve the same.

The money is donated to the UI’s Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“That’s what’s great about their initiative — they are donating locally,” said Tori Erickson, the executive director of development at the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Another aspect of the initiative Erickson finds remarkable is that the students started the group on their own.

“This is a group of young men and women that have come together on their own,” she said. “We are so proud of them.”

Besides growth, the campaign aims to create entertaining and ever changing ways to support their cause.

“Another thing that we try to do is keep things different,” said Storm Vaske, a cofounder of “Beards for Boobies.” “That’s probably the best part: coming up with an idea that people want to do.”

The campaign continued to grow after the beards were shaved last year.  Collins and Greeby worked to form an official student organization, called the Young Altruistic Professionals of America, aimed at branching out where help is needed.

“We wanted to create this organization that not only tackled breast cancer but that hit different causes,” Greeby said.

And the same passion that fueled “Beards for Boobies” continues all year with the group.

“The thing that defines [the group] is the passion behind it,” Collins said. “All the events that we do, we have a strong desire to do something for it. The way we see our events is we want to make them as big as possible and reach out to as many people as possible because we feel we believe in it so much.”

The next step is to keep spreading the cause.

“We have been working to branch this out and get this to other universities,” Collins said.  “We are looking to colonize and keep on growing. We want this, five years from now, to be a national organization. Because we feel it has that much passion and it has that much ability to grow.”


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