Money making mustaches

By Sophia Coleman

Gazing in a mirror with a dignified mustache gracing his lip, a man may think he looks like a million bucks, but little does he know that his fantastic follicles can actually make some real cash—and for a good cause.

Chicago’s chapter of Mustaches for Kids officially started in 2006, though there have been a few locals who have participated since 1996. For 15 years, Philip Bajorat has dedicated his holidays to growing a mustache in the name of charity. This year, he has already raised $1,300, and they are barely halfway through the season. Collectively, the Chicago chapter has raised more than $4,000.

Bajorat said that this year is shaping up to be one of Chicago chapter’s best. In Chicago, M4K’s first campaign in 2006 raised $13,000 for the Off the Streets Program, which is one of the oldest YMCA organizations that creates after-school programs to keep kids positively engaged. In 2007, $25,000 was raised for the program, and in 2008, when the Chicago chapter partnered with, they took fourth place in the national campaign, raising $30,000.

During his first year involved, Bajorat recalls unknowingly growing an illegal mustache.

“I didn’t read the rules all that closely, and I had an illegal mustache,” Bajorat said. “The hair had gone a little bit past my lower lip, which was not allowed.”

M4K was founded in L.A. in 1999, after a group of men decided it was time for young men to become more philanthropic. Now, the volunteer-run organization has spread across the country, supporting hundreds of children’s charities. Collectively, the mustache-growers have raised nearly $1 million for charities, such as The Make-a-Wish foundation, Children’s Hospital of New Orleans and

This year, was the Chicago chapter’s charity of choice. The organization is filled with posts detailing project requests from teachers across the country, which are later funded through various organizations.

“The original [M4K] founders realized in order to get guys involved who were busy with their jobs and families, it had to be something different, something quirky,” said Anna Doherty, head of Donor Engagement at

Each year, the affectionately titled “growers” begin sprouting their mustaches during a four-week period around the holidays. Each chapter begins at its own discretion, but it must begin and end some time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Every chapter sets up a Web page, where family, friends and other donors can view hilarious photos and decide which charities they would like their money to support. Most fund classrooms where supplies are needed.

There are exact rules a grower must follow, starting with a clean-shaven face and developing a mustache that reaches to both corners of his mouth. Sideburns, pencil-’staches, Fu Manchu and goatees are illegal and are not tolerated, according to M4K’s website. Checkpoints will occur every week, where each grower measures up, reports on how much he has raised and sometimes tests his mustache’s tensile strength by lifting random objects.

“Along with the mustache, you have to be a good salesman,” Bajorat said. “Mostly, you have to emphasize how terrible you look.”

Greg Heid, a teacher in Baltimore, is participating as a grower for the first time this year. According to, the Baltimore chapter is one of the strongest, and there are quite a few mighty mustaches to follow. Its most recent checkpoint was on Nov. 22, when growers tested their mustaches’ strength by lifting items found in the bar where their checkpoint was being hosted.

“The top items were baseball gloves and a pool [cue],” Heid said. “Anywhere you’re attaching just to the hair. It’s pretty painful.”

So far this year, the Baltimore Chapter has had its projects completely funded. Supplies, like science magazines and stopwatches, were given to schools in need.

Pranav Saha, who heads the Baltimore chapter, said that women are encouraged to be involved with M4K, even if they are incapable of growing a mustache.

“We need them out there recruiting and talking about the program,” Saha said. “There are many female teachers who are involved, so it’s a great opportunity for them to talk about the challenges of being in an underfunded classroom.”

The Chicago chapter had raised $4,572, just before their two-week checkpoint on Dec. 5

On Dec. 18, the Chicago chapter’s ’Stache Bash will commence, which is similar to a beauty pageant for mustaches. During this final event, growers will reveal how much money they have raised and will take on a mustached character of their choosing.

Heid said he has not yet chosen a character for the Baltimore ’Stache Bash, but will most likely go for an icon who has been known for his mustache, like Super Mario or Ron Burgundy from “Anchorman.”

Adam Peindl, who is part of the Chicago chapter, said this year his mustache has inspired him to become a 1970s musician of an album titled “Music To Massage Your Lover To.”

“I grew a mustache in college one time and it was terrible, but I was always looking for an excuse to do it again,” Peindl said. “Growing a mustache, while at the same time raising money for schools and students, is amazing.”

To donate, visit To participate or start your own chapter, visit