ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Facial hair extraordinaire: Beards are the battleground for United Way fundraiser

The United Way of West Central Minnesota teamed up with four area barbershops for a "Battle of the Beards" fundraising effort to raise money for cancer research. The fundraiser ran through the month of November.

121121.F.WCT.UWBattleoftheBeards.HairHut.jpg
The United Way of West Central Minnesota held its inaugural Battle of the Beards fundraiser Nov. 1-30, 2021, raising money for cancer research and support. Four area communities took part — Benson, Litchfield, Olivia and Willmar — competing as regional teams. Here, members of team Benson pose for a photo at the Hair Hut barbershop. Contributed / United Way of West Central Minnesota





WILLMAR — Andrea Nelson, special events coordinator with the United Way of West Central Minnesota, knows a good opportunity when she sees one. And this time, a barbershop is the place to be — or rather, not to be.

Nelson and her team coordinated the United Way's first "Battle of the Beards" this November, pitting four teams and 32 total participants against one another to compete for five possible titles: Businessman to Bushman, Facial Hair to Facial Flair, Scruff to Fluff, Senior to Santa and Unsheared to Long Beard.

ADVERTISEMENT

121121.F.WCT.UWBattleoftheBeards.Nicholas.jpg
Mike Nicholas of team Benson won the Facial Hair to Facial Flair category in the United Way of West Central Minnesota's inaugural Battle of the Beards. Contributed / United Way of West Central Minnesota

"We were talking about No-Shave November, and we kinda wanted to do a little spin-off of that," Nelson explained. "And so we decided that we wanted the money to go to cancer support in our community and it just kind of came from that."

Teams were based on regional locations and organized by local barbershops in cities spanning the United Way's five-county service area: Pep's, Willmar; Mac's Barber Shop, Olivia; Larry's Barber and Style, Litchfield; and Hair Hut, Benson. The competition was further sponsored by the Allergy and Asthma Specialty Clinic in Willmar.

"Once we got the barbers on board, they were willing to help find contestants who were willing to grow beards and collect donations for us, so that's kind of how it got started," Nelson said.

Each team chose a local or area cancer research or cancer support organization to which they wished to donate half of the donations raised throughout the event; the remaining funds were pooled into the United Way's grant distribution program.

121121.F.WCT.UWBattleoftheBeards.Kadelback.jpg
Matt Kadelback of team Litchfield won the Businessman to Bushman category in the United Way of West Central Minnesota's inaugural Battle of the Beards. Contributed / United Way of West Central Minnesota

As far as participation went, "we (were) pretty heavy in Litchfield and not-so-heavy in Olivia," Nelson said. "We, at the last minute, got a whole group of guys that wanted to sign on in Litchfield and then we had a couple that kind of fell through in Olivia, so we're not so even, but y'know, we still (had) great participation so we're excited about that."

That participation netted $6,553 in total, which was "maybe a little below (the goal), but that's OK. This was our first time so we didn't know what to expect, so I was pleasantly surprised," Nelson said.

ADVERTISEMENT

Team Benson won the team portion of the Battle of the Beards, bringing in $3,575, with one team member, Grant Herfindahl, soliciting the largest amount of donations of any contestant at $1,625. Half of that total will go to the Swift County-Benson Health Hospital Foundation , earmarked for cancer patients.

121121.F.WCT.UWBattleoftheBeards.Holgate.jpg
Bruce Holgate of team Benson won the Senior to Santa category in the United Way of West Central Minnesota's inaugural Battle of the Beards. Contributed / United Way of West Central Minnesota

"When I spoke with (the foundation), they were trying to get more cancer treatment service options available in Benson so that people don't have to travel," Nelson said.

The other three teams earmarked their donations for similar programs, including the community cancer support teams in Litchfield and Willmar, and the Renville County Walk in the Park .

"We had a lot of them that their families are kind of going through it with cancer right now, you know, dads, father-in-laws," Nelson said. "We had a lot of contestants who are dealing with it right now, so it hits close to home for a lot of people."

121121.F.WCT.UWBattleoftheBeards.Herfindahl.jpg
Grant Herfindahl of team Benson won the Scruff to Fluff category in the United Way of West Central Minnesota's inaugural Battle of the Beards. Herfindahl also brought in the most donations of any individual contestant, raising $1,625. Contributed / United Way of West Central Minnesota

The United Way hopes Battle of the Beards will return in 2022, with additional intra-team challenges and participation from more small communities around the region.

"I would love to see even more of the small towns — Clara City, Spicer, Kandiyohi, Kerkhoven, you know, all those smaller towns — I would love to see them jump on board, too," Nelson said. "We'd love to have as many people from as many areas as we can."

ADVERTISEMENT

Those interested in joining the 2022 event can begin looking for sign-up opportunities around October 2022, and more information can be found online at unitedwayhelps.org .

Steve Henkel of team Benson won the Unsheared to Long Beard category in the United Way of West Central Minnesota's inaugural Battle of the Beards. Contributed / United Way of West Central MinnesotaBattle of the Beards individual winners

  • Unsheared to Long Beard: Steve Henkel, team Benson
  • Facial Hair to Facial Flair: Mike Nicholas, team Benson
  • Scruff to Fluff: Grant Herfindahl, team Benson
  • Businessman to Bushman: Matt Kadelback, team Litchfield
  • Senior to Santa: Bruce Holgate, team Benson
Kit Grode joined the West Central Tribune as the features and sections editor in July 2021. She oversees the weekly Showcase and Extra feature segments and also the WCT's special sections.
What To Read Next
Area funerals scheduled through Feb. 10, 2023
The Clubs & Organizations calendar is published weekly on Thursdays. Email submissions to news@wctrib.com by 5 p.m. Monday.
Area funerals scheduled through Feb. 8, 2023
Submissions about charities, benefits and nonprofit fundraisers for the weekly Good Neighbors calendar published Wednesdays should be emailed to news@wctrib.com by noon Friday.