Movember 2011 by Carmen Cheung and Erin Letson

It's that time of year again where some men take on the challenge of growing a moustache for the month of November in an effort to raise money and awareness of prostate cancer. This year, we're taking a look at some of the high fundraisers in Toronto, as Canada has raised the most money out of all the participating countries. As November 30 approaches, the mo's will be shaved off, but there is still time to make a donation!

Ron Telpner, 61, Chairman of The BrainStorm Group

“I got involved in Movember a couple of years ago after having a high PSA number, having a biopsy and being told I dodged a bullet. A year later, in September 2010, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Having gone through the medical system, I wish I had known more about preventative care and prostate health in my earlier years so I would have done something differently. I send a note to my email list every week with an update on my progress. Last Monday, I had a biopsy and I wrote about it under the title “Revenge of the Prostate Snatchers.” I try to make it funny and tell people I'd rather they get checked and find out more about prostate health than just make a donation. What I've learned is that men get very afraid when they hear they have prostate cancer and the inclination is to go get something done. And if you get something done like having your prostate out or having radiation, you end up, in some cases, with erectile dysfunction and incontinence. At my age, I'm way too young for that stuff. So it's about taking an active role – it's not just about surveillance, it's about exercising, juicing, taking the right supplements, cutting things out of your diet. Strangely enough, even with prostate cancer, I'm healthier now than I have been in the past just from making those changes.”

Shawn Syms, 41, Fiction Writer and Advocacy Journalist

“I think prostate cancer is an important cause and I think men's health is something that people, especially men, don't necessarily want to talk about because it involves body parts and things they're uncomfortable with. I've written about health-related issues, sexually transmitted infections, drug addiction – so I'm comfortable exposing stuff not everyone wants to talk about and I think it's a good, important thing to do. My approach to fundraising has been shameless self-promotion, talking to friends, using social networks. I've found LinkedIn, in particular, has been very successful because it's a professional network. I have a lot of people on LinkedIn who are all over the place and some of them have been very generous. In my workplace, we've been competing with one another to see who can get the most donations, so it makes it more fun – and it's fun just to see more guys with moustaches around. When I think about why I'm doing Movember, I think...there's been cancer in my family, one of my closest friends survived colon cancer, I grew up in Niagara Falls, which has one of the highest rates of cancer in the province. So it's something that's always been around and if there's something you can do to help, you want to do it.”

James Warren, 29, Chartered Accountant and Co-Founder of the Young Scotch Club
“The main reason I do Movember is because I believe in raising awareness of prostate cancer. This year, I helped form a team with a few co-workers and the Movember website provides this network feature, so all the teams within McCain Foods joined and we've raised almost $10,000. I was in the U.K. the first week of November for work, and I was in the bathroom and saw a Movember poster. So I searched the office to find the guy growing a moustache and said, “Join our team.” My goal is to have a global network of employees at McCain working toward the cause. It's definitely bigger this year and more people are involved. I met the people who work at Movember Canada and they encourage any kind of creative or unique way you make Movember your own and that's another benefit of doing it. My co-founder at the Young Scotch Club and I, we did a Scotch and 'Staches night where we got around 30 people out to support the cause. There we were raising $750 at an event and the director of Movember Canada was there supporting it. So every dollar counts.”

Anoop Dogra, 43, Investment Banker

“I was diagnosed with prostate cancer early last year and had surgery the middle of last year, and it made me realize this is an important cause. I have three sons, so that makes me think about it a bit more as well. Movember is one of those things that every year you do it, you really see the magnitude of it and the generosity of people. I think people are really giving a lot every year. The awareness is there – which sometimes makes it harder to raise money because everybody's calling everybody, but at the end of the day, all the money is going to a good cause. This year, I expanded the number of people I asked for donations. People are well aware of the cause now, but I think you have to come across as genuine and somebody who cares. And I think my situation, my having gone through [having prostate cancer], motivates people more to give. I raised about $11,000 last year and I'm hoping to beat $20,000 this year, so I'm quite pleased.”

Dave Emilio, 44, Web Developer

“I started doing Movember three years ago when the company I work for sent out information about it and urged us to get involved. I work in a pretty big office, so we all know someone who has been affected. It's a long month, so our office makes it a fun thing. We have a competition, we have social nights, we have team t-shirts made up. I've used social media and direct email a lot for fundraising. Face to face is great, but people go home and forget that you've asked them, so email is a necessity because they have the links and information. My son is on a new hockey team this year and I said to the coach in passing, “Let's see if we can beat what his team raised last year.” And the coach said, “If we do, will you let the kids shave your moustache?” And I said, “Yeah of course.” And then I said if they make $600, I'll let them shave my head. And they stepped up. There's a father on the team who shaves his head every day who's going to supervise and make sure the kids don't tear me apart.”

Andrew Cassils, 36, Project Manager

“I think cancer, in general, is constantly something worth fighting against. The great thing about Movember is the structure that's set up – you can create your profile, you can have fun with it, you can express yourself and then have this interface you can send out to everyone. I chose selectively because I didn't just want to go out and ask everybody for money, especially as this cause gains traction and everybody's asking everybody. I wanted it to be more of a targeted, personal approach, so I selected a couple of key people I work with outside of the office and was absolutely surprised at how they stepped up. The culture we have in our office is very team-oriented in general, so this is another fun team-building event. It's something where everyone gets to come in the first week and identify who's doing it and as month rolls along, you get to walk around and hear all the comments. My favourite so far has been, “Oh God – it's getting so big!” We have an office of around 150 people and 40 plus guys are doing Movember, so it's an opportunity to get to know other people in the office that you wouldn't otherwise be interacting with. I've also nodded to total strangers on the street who have moustaches – there's definitely a sense of camaraderie.”

Carmen Cheung is a Toronto-based freelance photographer. You can find more of her work on her website here and follow her on Twitter @carmencheung.

Erin Letson is a Toronto-based writer and editor who blogs about digestive health at Fix My Gut ( You can follow her on Twitter @erinletson.  


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