The earliest moustache on a man can be traced back to a portrait of an Iranian horseman in 300 BC.
Over the years, different types of moustaches have been coined, including the handlebar, the pencil and the walrus, to name a few. Those who grew up in the 1980s certainly know of the Tom Selleck “Magnum P.I.” moustache.
These days, the moustache is viewed in many circles as a kind of retro fashion statement—harking back to the 1970s and 1980s eras. But for former Pepperdine and USC men’s player Donny Killian, the moustache has far more meaning than just some random trip down memory lane.
Killian is the country manager in the U.S. for the non-profit Movember Foundation, a global charity movement engaging men to grow moustaches during the month of November for the purpose of raising awareness and funds to benefit men’s health, specifically prostate cancer and other cancers affecting men.
The concept of Movember is simple. On Nov. 1 each year, guys register at the foundation’s website with a clean-shaven face. For the rest of the month, these “Mo Bros,” as they are called, groom, trim and wax their moustaches, while raising funds by seeking out sponsorship for their moustache-growing efforts. “Mo Sistas” help support their “Mo Bros” with their stache-growing initiatives.
At the same time, the hope is these “Mo Bros” raise awareness by prompting private and public conversation around the often-ignored issue of men’s health.
“This is an absolute serious cause,” the 32-year-old Killian says. “We want to get men talking about their health and break down those borders. This is a fun and irreverent way of encouraging men to have fun with this and raise awareness and education.”
Movember hits close to home for Killian. His father, Don (who played at USC in the 1970s), passed away from cancer earlier this year.
“This is certainly a cause that is near and dear to my heart,”he says. “My dad battled cancer for 12 years. He passed away with a stache. He had started to grow one. There’s a message here. Don’t be that standard guy. Go and get tested. If something is not feeling well, don’t assume it will go away.”
So far, the Movember message is spreading like wildfire. In 2010 alone, over 64,500 U.S. “Mo Bros” and “Mo Sistas” were part of the program, raising $7.5 million. Since its humble beginnings in Australia in the early 2000s, Movember, which has a close men’s health partnership with the Prostate Cancer Foundation and Lance Armstrong’s LIVESTRONG foundation, has raised over $174 million—including an impressive $80.7 million worldwide last year.
“We’re officially the largest private funder for prostate cancer (research and awareness),” Killian notes. “We’re finally able to map the genetic makeup of prostate cancer. There are 25 different strains of prostate cancer. We are getting the ability to now target specific types of prostate cancer.”
Part of that $80.7 million total includes healthy participation from the U.S. volleyball community. Killian has used his background and connections in the sport to further raise the awareness bar.
“We’re like-minded guys that care about our health and living a healthy lifestyle. We’re not afraid to make fun of ourselves and create communication around things that are important in our lives,” he says.
UCLA women’s coach Mike Sealy is one of the many volleyball community supporters of Movember.
“I really didn’t know about the Movember movement and then a friend of mine (Killian) was involved in it and it just seemed like a fun, easy thing to do to raise awareness,” Sealy states.
With the Breast Cancer Awareness movement enjoying tremendous success for women, Sealy feels there was an opportunity for a similar push specifically targeted at men’s health.
“I remember seeing some NFL games last year where a lot of players were wearing pink socks or pink gloves. It’s amazing what that movement has done,” he notes. “It seemed like a natural thing to do to bring the same kind of awareness to men’s health issues.”
UCLA alum and NCAA champion Court Young, now an actor working in television and film, was inspired by Killian as well.
“It’s a simple concept for men,” he states. “Let’s unite against the cause, which is obviously very worthy. Donny was definitely the catalyst for me after seeing him go through what he did with his dad battling cancer. I don’t think guys had really anything to associate with and be a part of. Movember is one of the fastest-growing nonprofits in the country. The word keeps spreading.”
Volleyball runs in the Killian family. Donny’s uncle Doug played for USC, and his sister Lauren, who is now married to Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel, was a setter for USC. Killian’s younger brother, Jimmy, also a former setter at USC, is hopeful Movember can reach even more guys and sprout additional staches.
“This is something that should have been done a long time ago,” Jimmy Killian says. “There is that male stereotype of never being sick and never being hurt. Movember has changed a lot of lives. I see this continuing to be a significant factor in the fight against prostate cancer.”
As far as the moustaches go, Jimmy Killian likes to play it by ear when the calendar switches to November.
“Every year when I wake up Nov. 1, I let it do its own thing,” he says.
“I’ve gone with the handlebar and the straight-across Brillo Pad. I don’t know what I am going to do this year.”
Young is in his fourth year growing a moustache for a good cause.
“Mine is unique,” he says. “It’s very traditional. I typically keep it through Thanksgiving and almost to Christmas. I love it. It’s a good way to show your pride. It’s something completely simple. You walk around LA and bump into someone with a stache and mention Movember and then you get to talking about it.”
Sealy recalls eating at a team meal last November and encountering some stache malfunction.
“I was eating and my moustache kept going into my mouth as I was eating,” he says. “It was kind of horrifying.”
Sealy says individuality is a must when growing a stache.
“Just like in coaching where they say you have to be your own person, I think you have to have your own moustache whether it’s going to be super-suave or borderline creepy. You have to go with what God gave you.”
Other recognizable volleyball “Mo Bros” include former UCSB player Aaron Mansfield, U.S. men’s national team member Brook Billings to name just a few.
“It’s a way to keep in touch more easily instead of playing after work in a basketball league,” Donny Killian notes.
Plans are in progress to get the word out to even more of the volleyball community and the country in general thanks in part to a revamped database on the company’s website.
“I can grow from that experience of last year and learn for this year,” Sealy says. “I’m going to try and get the guys on staff involved and I’m going to ask the players’ fathers and supporters of the program to get involved, too.”
Jimmy Killian adds: “This is something sitting right there for us to make an impact with. We’ve taken it and hit the ground running.”
For more on the movement visit Movember.
Originally published in November 2011