Fundraising with facial hair

From left, Bill Scanlon, Gregg McKirryher, Mike Chatfield, John DeBisschop, T.J. Hawks and Lenny Patterson pose for a photo outside of the Naugatuck Fire Department. The Naugatuck firefighters grew mustaches to raise money for the Harold Leever Regional Cancer Center. -REPUBLICAN AMERICAN

From left, Bill Scanlon, Gregg McKirryher, Mike Chatfield, John DeBisschop, T.J. Hawks and Lenny Patterson pose for a photo outside of the Naugatuck Fire Department. The Naugatuck firefighters grew mustaches to raise money for the Harold Leever Regional Cancer Center. -REPUBLICAN AMERICAN


NAUGATUCK — The firefighter and the mustache have a long and storied history.

Like the lumberjack and the long beard or the surfer and the long locks, the mustache on the firefighter has remained in vogue even as fashion styles have changed over the years.

There are, however, some who rebel against firefighter norms and choose to remain clean-shaven most of the time. Yet even those men in the Naugatuck Fire Department have dared to grow lip hair for the month of November, or “Movember.”

“Movember” is a global men’s health charity where men grow and women support the mustache during November. The effort aims to raise funds and awareness for men’s health, specifically prostate cancer, testicular cancer and mental health problems, according to the organization’s website.

Twelve firefighters participated in this first-time event organized by the Naugatuck Fire Fighters Union Local 1219. Firefighters gave money to participate and raised $400 for the Harold Leever Regional Cancer Center in Waterbury.

Fire Capt. Mike Chatfield said firefighters have had a good time with the mustaches, but admitted some had to drop out of the race — albeit after paying their fees — because either they or their significant others couldn’t stand it any longer.

Chatfield himself grew a barbell mustache, as did Firefighter Gregg McKirryher. Neither of them typically have facial hair.

The fire department has also worn pink shirts to support breast cancer awareness and has held several other fundraisers over the years. Chatfield said the mustache event is fun because guys try to compete for the best look.

Fire Chief Ken Hanks, who always has a mustache, said mustaches have been a tradition for firefighters for as long as he can remember. He still sees many young firefighters in the academy sporting lip hair.

He noted that the trend has been spoofed in many popular culture references, including in the animated sitcom “Family Guy.” Hanks quoted Peter Griffin, the father from the show, who said, “With great mustache comes great responsibility,” before he runs into a burning building.

The firefighters are not the only emergency responders growing facial hair. The Naugatuck Police Department has participated in a similar nonprofit fundraiser called No Shave November, and officers have grown facial hair for a cause. They are supposed to be clean-shaven per department policy, but Police Chief Christopher Edson has given the police union permission for the fundraiser.

Last year, the union gave close to $1,000 to the Naugatuck Ecumenical Food Bank through the fundraiser and expects to have similar success this year.