After Vanderbilt Kappa Sigma alumni Austin Wortley was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2010, the organization banded together to support him. Inspired by his strength and resilience throughout chemotherapy and radiation, Vanderbilt’s No Shave November tradition began the following year.
This month, Kappa Sigma at Vanderbilt is spearheading its annual No Shave November campaign to promote cancer awareness and fundraise for the American Cancer Society. Challenging its members and the Vanderbilt community to cast razors aside for 30 days, third party individuals can sponsor the group or participants via CrowdRise, a fundraising platform. The Kappa Sigma fraternity has pledged a goal to raise $5,000 by the end of November.
While many No Shave November campaigns focus specifically on men’s health, the Kappa Sigma effort targets general cancer awareness in order to promote as much campus involvement as possible. The movement encourages both women and men to grow body hair for the cause.
“The basis behind the event is that everyone is either indirectly or directly affected by cancer. The event used to be very Kappa Sigma-oriented, but after last year, we have a common theme of getting everyone more involved,” said Kappa Sigma Philanthropy Chair Henry Lewis (‘20).
At the event’s kickoff barbecue on Nov. 8, there was a performance by Momentum Dance Company and a Relay for Life speaker. Over 160 people attended and raised over $3,000, which is being donated directly to Relay for Life. With the buy-in of eight Greek organizations, non-Greek participants and Vanderbilt Student Government, the No Shave November movement is rapidly growing on Vanderbilt’s campus both in fundraising and inclusivity.
Keeping morale high throughout November, Kappa Sigma’s participants share selfies and updates on a Facebook page dedicated to the campaign’s progress.
As the Nov. 30 shave-date approaches, participants will begin to dye, shape and design their beards. The hope is that the more unwieldy the beard is in length or design, the more it will prompt discussion about the movement and its message. What often gets lost in the spectacle of handlebars, goatees and chinstraps, however, is the personal draw for each individual to cast aside his or her daily habits and take part in No Shave November.
The Hustler asked the following participants to explain their personal ties to No Shave November:
“One of the most common side effects of chemotherapy is hair loss. Personally, I grow the beard that cancer patients all over the world do not have the ability to. The discomfort and inconvenience of having a funny or gross beard pales in comparison to the daily discomfort of a cancer patient. While cancer has not directly affected a member of my family, I got to know more and more about my close friends here at Vanderbilt and learned about the many ways in which cancer has impacted their lives. With many of my fellow Kappa Sigma brothers having family members who are either in a current battle with cancer, fought off cancer or have unfortunately lost the battle to cancer, I feel even more compelled to give my absolute dedication to this cause.”
“I choose to engage in No Shave November because it raises awareness for cancer in a simple yet tangible way. I’ve had several family members and friends battle cancer in their lives. Often times, part of that process involves losing all of one’s hair. Embracing and growing out facial hair is a way to recognize and raise awareness for that. It also becomes a fun and competitive thing, where we all drop our razors and see who can grow the best beard. It’s great to be able to have fun with it and still be doing something good in the process.”
“No Shave November isn’t just a chance to grow a luxurious beard, it’s a chance to grow a luxurious beard for the purpose of bringing awareness to the millions of Americans who are currently resisting the ravages of cancer. Freshman year of high school, I lost one of my good friends to a three year battle with leukemia. He’s been gone for almost eight years now, but his voracious appetite for life will stay with me forever. This November, let’s remember how lucky we all are to be alive and how quickly our lives can be changed forever.”
“I’m a big supporter of this movement because cancer affects everyone in one way or another. A few of my family members on my mom’s side have had cancer, and my grandmother has been fighting cancer for about as long as I can remember. I think the No Shave November effort definitely brings everyone together and is effective in not only spreading awareness but also in raising a ton of money. I encourage people to get involved and to have some fun with it.”
“I’m participating in No Shave November to raise awareness for Relay for Life and cancer research. The hope is that when people take notice of our beards, they will also take notice of why we are growing them. Beyond the gimmick, we grow out our facial hair this month in honor of patients who may not be able to due to chemotherapy or similar radiation treatments. Although it is a small part we play, we enjoy banding together to pay tribute to those who are important in our lives and are affected by the disease. We hope to establish a community of support and hopefully raise money to contribute to a cure.”
Beyond the two-hour kick-off barbecue, mirror selfies and 30 day challenge, No Shave November’s message aims to resound the other 335 days of the year, moving researchers closer to a cure one beard at a time.