When 64-year-old Ron Swan was diagnosed with prostate cancer a couple of months ago, the Portland State chapter of Phi Delta Theta rallied around Swan and decided the best way to help their ailing friend was to … grow mustaches. After Swan’s diagnosis, fraternity President Dalton Higginbottom did some research and found “Movember,” an international event that turns November into a month-long mustache growing contest designed to raise awareness and money for prostate cancer.
When 64-year-old Ron Swan was diagnosed with prostate cancer a couple of months ago, the Portland State chapter of Phi Delta Theta rallied around Swan and decided the best way to help their ailing friend was to … grow mustaches.
After Swan’s diagnosis, fraternity President Dalton Higginbottom did some research and found “Movember,” an international event that turns November into a month-long mustache growing contest designed to raise awareness and money for prostate cancer.
“He’s donated a lot of time and effort,” said the chapter’s secretary Matt Addington. “He’s a father figure.”Addington said that Swan has been a mentor to numerous fraternity members, including Higginbottom.
“He’s always been a staunch supporter,” said Richard Howard, another member. “We thought it would be a good idea to support him.”
Howard said that “mo” is an Australian slang term for mustache, and all 15 active members are now attempting to grow their own mustaches–with varying degrees of success.
“We definitely get those looks,” Howard said. “It’s a conversation starter. Then we can let them know where they can donate.”
Addington said it was shocking to hear their friend had prostate cancer, but he was upbeat about his chances.
“He is a strong human being,” Addington said, “and he can beat it.”
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer that isn’t skin cancer in the United States, and about 28,000 men will likely die this year as a result of the cancer among the 2 million diagnosed. However, 90 percent of cases caught early on are cured.
“It’s real now,” Howard added. “We’re taking an active role in trying to fight back.”
In fact, Movember is just one of many charitable events the Phi Deltas participate in, including the walk for Lou Gherig’s Disease, which raised around $2,000 over the past two years of participation.
Lou Gherig was a Phi Delta Theta alumnus from Columbia University.
The Teeter-Totter-a-Thon is also an event organized by the cooperative effort of Phi Delta Theta and Kappa Sigma, another PSU fraternity. The fraternity also takes part in various community events such as participating in volunteer work in food kitchens.
Movember participants sign up at us.movember.com, where they can create a profile to document the progression of their mustache growth and receive personal donations for the cause.
Movemeber is a non-profit organization that promotes the discussion of prostate cancer, fights to raise awareness and contributes to funding research on the disease.
All proceeds go to the international Prostate Cancer Foundation. Movember is the largest international fundraiser for prostate cancer. It has collected $29 million in donations from more than 200,000 participants.
Last year, the United States raised more than $740,000.
At the end of November a number of gala events are organized in cities such as Las Angeles, New York City, Chicago and Aspen for those who managed to collect more than $100,000 in donations.
Howard said that they are aiming at realistic goals.
“We’re trying to make everyone aware,” he said. “We don’t have a specific dollar goal. It’s hopefully going to push a little bit closer to a cure.”
Higgenbottom has organized an event similar to these celebrating the Fighting Phis’ efforts, and the donations from the community.
“Monday, Nov. 30 we’ll have an event at our chapter house to see how much money we raised,” Higginbottom said.
Donations can be sent through the Movember Web site by accessing the “Donate to a Team” page, and searching for the “Fighting Phis of Oregon Epsilon,” reaching a page where anyone can contribute directly to the Phi Delta Theta team.
All this, Howard said, for a friend that has been actively involved in the fraternity for more than five years and has done everything from attending events to assisting brothers in time of need.
“He’s one of those close friends you can call in a serious situation,” Howard said. “He’s always been there for them.”
A few weeks ago, Swan was initiated into the fraternity as an official brother.
-Additional reporting by Shawn Farina