UPDATE: Another fundraiser overtook Kavanaugh with one day left in the campaign.
A man from the Philadelphia suburbs looking to make a difference has gone from clean-cut dad to mustache fundraising hero during the annual Movember campaign.
Michael “Mike” Kavanagh of Newtown, Pennsylvania, is the top fundraiser — with two days to spare — in the campaign to raise awareness about men’s health.
“I was sitting there thinking about how I could make a difference — I thought about doing a 5K or doing a golf outing — but then it came to me, ‘Mikey use your industry knowledge along with your personal history and make a real difference when it comes to men’s health.”
Mike’s journey, and facial hair, started with the support of his employer. He works as a pharmaceutical sales director for AstraZeneca in Plainsborough, New Jersey.
“I was asked by the lead in my office to join the Movember cause. I never had grown a mustache before in my life and never thought I could,” said Mike.
Mike’s story and hard work — spending many late nights working the phones and updating his online profiles — and great 'stache has raised more than $40,000 for the organization.
By raising awareness for men to go to the doctor and to address possible health concerns, Mike pays tribute to the women he lost.
Mike has grown out his handlebar mustache to pay homage to a trio of women in his life he lost to cancer. Mike lost his grandmother to cancer. Then his mom died from cancer in Nov. 2010. Shortly after, his wife Stephanie was diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer that would eventually claim her life.
“My MOtivation. My grandmother, mother, and the love of my life... ALL taken from us by cancer,” writes Mike on his Movember fundraising page. “Why MOvember? Because this is where I can make a difference. Cancer has had a massive impact on my professional and personal life.”
The Nov.1 start date for Movember had extra meaning for Mike since it marked what would have been his 17th wedding anniversary after they met while he played lacrosse and she swam at Bucknell. Stephanie died in June 2013 and since then Mike searched for a way to honor her.
“Once you’ve worked in cancer and you’ve dealt with cancer you drop everything to help people who are dealing with cancer because it’s like being hit with a sledgehammer,” said Mike. “The people in Movember, they're so intense and their hatred for cancer is so sincere.”
Mike calls the support from near and far “spectacular.”
“What people are doing for me is giving me a reason to believe and telling the story about how cancer has impacted their lives,” said Mike.
The whole process has also been fun.
“I want people to laugh at me for having a blonde mustache — I had no idea… it’s coming in blonde and black,” laughs the jet-black-headed Mike.
A native of Long Island, New Yorker Kavanaugh said an icon of his beloved Jets inspired his look.
“I modeled myself after Joe Namath with the Fu ‘Mo’chu as I call it,” said a laughing Mike.
The son of a police officer, Mike said growing up he always had to be clean-cut.
So what do Mike’s kids, 10-year-old Dylan and 12-year-old Michaela, think of their dad’s new look?
“This has been a little on the wild side for me and the kids love it.”
The Movember movement began in 2003 with 30 Australian guys letting their facial hair — of all colors — grow for the month of November in a hope to raise awareness about men’s health, since then the movement has gained massive traction raising more than $559 million in the United States alone while involving more than 4 million men and women (yes women can participate as well).
About 300 of Mike’s co-workers also joined the "MOvement," raising more than $100,000.
The community spread far beyond his office. Mike said some of the best advice and support has actually come from those guys nearest to him on the Movember leader board but that doesn’t mean that being No. 1 — he leads by about $1,500 — come month’s end isn’t his goal.
“I want to make a run at being No. 1… to become No. 1 that would be huge for my kids and huge for the cause.”