NAUGATUCK — Men who grow beards each have their own reason for doing so. Some do it to make them look more masculine. Some do it for superstition. Some men just do it because they are Boston Red Sox fans.
Naugatuck High School English teacher John Carino found a fun, yet charitable way, back in 2008 for men to show off their facial hair. He established the Manliest Beard contest at NHS.
Carino got his inspiration to establish the contest from a group of seniors from the class of 2008.
“It started off as a joke really,” Carino explained. “Some of my seniors said they could grow a better beard than I could and I said that we should have a contest or a fundraiser to see who can grow the best beard. That is how it was born.”
What was Carino going to raise the money for? He found his inspiration right at home.
Carino’s son is diagnosed with autism, a disease that presently affects one in every 68 children in the United States. Carino felt it was only right to put all of the earnings from the contest towards the Autism Spectrum Resource Center.
In the eighth year of this contest, however, Carino decided to raise the money for the Best Buddies program at the high school. The program pairs children with intellectual and developmental disabilities in one-to-one friendships with high school students.
Right from the beginning, the competition was a major success.
“In 2008, we had a lot of participation,” Carino said. “That was partly because the Class of 2008 was very interested.”
Carino said that it has not gotten less popular at all over the years. Each year, the contest brings a lot of participation and a lot of money, along with the competiveness that all of the men bring to see who is the most masculine.
“We have learned over the years that we could create separate categories,” Carino said. “The faculty wanted to get more involved, especially this year. And, of course, we let them.”
One of these very competitive teachers is social studies teacher Tim Walsh, who participated for the first time this year. Walsh said he just couldn’t say no, and he has used the same motto since the beginning of March to raise as much money as he can.
“You’re either first or you’re worst,” Walsh said.
Carino is very appreciative of Walsh and all of the other faculty members who joined in the effort. He says they have been a big help.
“The faculty have been our big money-raisers this year,” Carino said.
The contest ran through March. Naugatuck High senior Ygor Silva and junior Paul Cavagnuolo won the contest.
The contest raised about $1,000 this year, which was Carino’s goal from the beginning.
Growing a beard means something special to every man, but to Carino, it can mean something special to children as well.