Yukon College embraces philanthropic facial hair

It's that time of year again: faces around the world are prepping to grow their annual crumb catcher. Their yearly lip sweater. Their recurrent flavour saver.

It’s that time of year again: faces around the world are prepping to grow their annual crumb catcher. Their yearly lip sweater. Their recurrent flavour saver.

November is also Movember, the month where men shave their faces clean and grow a mustache to raise money for programs around prostate cancer, testicular cancer and men’s mental health issues.

Of course, a walk down Main Street in the winter shows Yukoners knew all about impressive facial hair long before the mo’ became a symbol of philanthropy.

For that reason, the organizers of this year’s Movember campaign at Yukon College have decided to shake things up a little.

“We’re changing the rules this year. We’re going rogue,” said the college’s Michael Vernon.

If someone wants to follow the conventional rules and grow a mustache from scratch for the month, they can. But Yukoners already in the midst of growing any form of facial hair can just keep going.

Do something to draw attention to your facial hair – mustache, beard or otherwise – Vernon said, while sporting a purple goatee. Maybe that means dying it or styling it differently.

“Do something that makes you a little more unique and stand out. Then people will ask you, ‘What’s going on with your face?’”

It’s that conversation that is the most important, he said.

“It’s like wearing a hairy ribbon. We’ve seen the white ribbon campaign, the pink ribbon campaign, the blue ribbon campaign, the red ribbon campaign or the purple ribbon campaign,” he said.

“This is like one of those campaigns. It’s just that it’s on your face.”

Last year at Yukon College eight students and six staff raised $3,721 for the national Movember campaign.

A year earlier, $2,900 was raised and went to the Yukon Hospital Foundation’s MRI fund.

There are still questions about where the money will go this year. Supporting the national campaign comes with certain benefits, like a specially designed app, a team scorekeeping system and the ability to donate online. But there are also downsides.

“All the money goes to Toronto and, as of yet, there is not a men’s health project in the Yukon that is accessing Movember funding. So none of it comes back,” Vernon said.

The college is considering supporting a local charity this year, but no official decisions have been made. One name that has been bounced around is the Yukoners Cancer Care Fund. The charity was started last year by Geraldine Van Bibber, who is also the college’s chancellor.

It assists Yukoners who need to go Outside for treatment or those in the communities who need to come to Whitehorse.

“One thing I learned this week is that prostate cancer treatment can mean monthly trips Outside,” Vernon said.

Since about May or June the charity already awarded 12 grants of $1,000 each, Vernon said.

Last year in Canada about 173,000 people participated in Movember nationally and raised $33 million.

That campaign took on a special meaning for Vernon.

Last year during Movember he got a call from his dad living in the U.K.

He had been diagnosed with esophageal cancer – cancer of the throat.

“He had had trouble eating, he had had trouble for some time, and now it was getting to the point where he couldn’t keep food down or get food down.”

He said he was surprised that his father hadn’t gone for help sooner.

“It shocked me, in a way, that he had known for almost a year that something was wrong and yet had done nothing about it.”

His dad went through chemo and had a tumor removed and is doing much better, Vernon said.

“It really brought it home to me why I should get involved and stay involved with Movember.”

There are sign-up sheets around the college to join this year’s Movember team. Events are being planned for throughout the month of November. More information will go up on the college’s Facebook page.

Contact Ashley Joannou at