New York – Every day you could see the change, on some more than others. Some were dark, some were light, some grew bushy and full, while others struggled to grow at all and some simply donated to the cause. But for each of the participants, it meant a way to come together and help their community, which was severely impacted from the destruction of Hurricane Sandy.
For 30 days, 12 members at Coast Guard Station New York participated in the annual worldwide November mustache-growing charity event known as Movember, which has raised more than $86 million this year. During Movember, men grow their “Mos” a term coined for mustaches, to help raise awareness for men’s health, specifically prostate and testicular cancer. But the cause isn’t just for men to be a part of. Women too (Mo Sistas as they are called) are getting involved by supporting the men in their lives by donating and encouraging them to take an active step in the fight against cancer.
“When I first read what the significance of Movember was about, I immediately had to support this cause,” said Chief Petty Officer Antonio Montano, an electrician’s mate stationed at Coast Guard Station New York. “Having been recently screened for testicular cancer and being told that I am a high risk patient, I felt it extremely important to spread the word and garner support for this initiative.”
What started out as a fun approach for the crew to come together and raise awareness and moral at the station quickly turned into a way to raise funds to help support displaced families in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
“Initially this was all about Movember and its stated purpose of raising awareness/funds for Men’s Health issues,” said Lt. Cmdr. Bill Walsh, commanding officer of Coast Guard Station New York. “Superstorm Sandy changed this. Our focus shifted from Movember to growing moustaches to raise money for Coast Guard and other area families in need. It seemed like a logical shift given the severity of the storm and the need to spread some cheer to those most impacted by the storm.”
Station New York, the largest Coast Guard small boat unit is located just inside the entrance to New York Harbor on Staten Island, N.Y. Because of the unit’s proximity to the harbor entrance, its grounds and buildings sustained incredible water damage from the storm surge. The first level of each of the unit’s five buildings was damaged and required gutting before mold could set in causing an even greater problem. The crews had to relocate their operations and boats, working out of two separate locations, one on Staten Island at the Fire Dept. and the other further away in Bayonne, N.J.
“Sandy hit everyone pretty hard,” said Walsh. “All operations and what we consider a normal life was impacted. Movember was a welcome distraction and was a central source for friendly banter and humor.”
In order to help add to the friendly challenge among shipmates, the station chose to put together a Movember wall inside one of their boat houses, which members could read about the history of the cause, gain inspiration from some famous moustache wearers and compare their donation amounts among participants.
Some of the donations have come from the women at the unit supporting the cause, participants’ spouses, and the community, while others have come from senior leadership and supporters including Commandant of the Coast Guard, Adm. Bob Papp and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard, Master Chief Michael Levitt.
The issue of men’s health and raising awareness is significant to Papp who, less than a year ago underwent surgery to treat early stages of prostate cancer.
“As Coast Guard men and women, we must care for our health so we can answer the call and protect our nation, remaining true to our motto, ‘Semper Paratus’ – Always Ready,” said Papp.
For some of the participants, it was their first time growing a moustache, others have tried it in the past but weren’t particularly fond of how it looked or felt. But despite how silly they may look, the goal of the event for this unit was to gain awareness for men’s health and the money raised will be donated to help ease some of the hardship their community was faced with in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.