Andy Spence, his dad, and brother got this crazy idea couple years ago.
“We came up with idea to get people to support us to grow beards,” he says.
The idea was out of the blue, but not without pretext. In 2010, Andy’s mom passed away from lung cancer, and that Christmas, the Spence family felt the gap she left behind.
“She loved Christmas,” Andy says. “She would decorate the house, spending two weeks putting them up and another two weeks taking them down. We were lost that first Christmas without her.”
So to honor her memory, the Spence men decided to do what they naturally do best—grow beards—to help fundraise for lung cancer research.
“My dad, brother, and I are the ‘growers’ and my younger sister helps organize it,” he says. “It has been unifying because we are giving to something annually. It brings us together, and reminds us of my mom during her favorite time of year.”
When they first did their Beards for Hope fundraiser in 2010, 25 men decided to grow beards alongside them, and together raised almost $7,000 from 100 donors.
After their initial success, the Spence family saw the potential to make this a big event that would involve others wanting to support the effort. In 2011, they launched a website and created a fundraising page on Mightycause to collect donations. That year they had 30 people grow beards, and over 225 donated.
This year, it looks like the Spence family will break records once again.
All of the monies raised through the Beards for Hope fundraisers have gone to the Breath of Hope Lung Foundation in Minneapolis.
“Almost every penny goes to research, and they are run by volunteers,” Andy says of why the Spence family chose to support Breath of Hope in their fundraising. He is also Vice President of the organization’s board of directors.
“The most appealing thing about Breath of Hope is that it was started years ago by people with lung cancer, literally sitting around in hospital beds, and survivor groups, “ he says. “People were discouraged and fed up with the underfunding of lung cancer research compared to other cancer research.”
Lung cancer is the leading cause of all cancer-related deaths in the U.S.—more than breast cancer, pancreatic, and colorectal combined—but receives a lesser amount of funding in proportion to the population affected.
“People who are truly affected by lung cancer are there to fight the uphill battle of getting lung cancer its fair share of research dollars,” Andy says.
Anyone who would like to join them and grow a beard to support their fundraiser is welcome to! Sign up soon (space is limited).