Guest Author: Paul E. Hendricks
Sitting at The Mohawk in Austin, two days before emceeing the 2017 Remington Beard Boss World Beard and Moustache Championships, I found myself watching a half dozen German competitors enjoying some of America’s finest beers while wondering how I arrived at this moment in my life.
I moved to Austin from the Hawaiian island of Oahu four years prior, and despite having a beard for over twenty years, I had never seen Whisker Wars and didn’t know that beard clubs existed. Upon moving to Austin, I started a podcast with a comedian friend of mine, John Tole. His girlfriend at the time was a member of the Austin Facial Hair Club (AFHC) and encouraged me to participate in the Six Month Sprint category of their annual beard contest. I did. And that’s how it all began.
A year and a half later, I was standing under the lights on stage at The Mohawk, emceeing the AFHC’s inaugural Dog Beard and Moustache Competition (Dog BMC). Silly? Yes. Entertaining? Yes. Charitable? Yes! An off-the-cuff remark made at a World Beard and Moustache Championships held in Europe a year earlier was the catalyst for this event. Bryan Nelson, the President and Co-Founder of the AFHC and Taylor Welden, AFHC’s Vice President, took note of the comment and immediately started planning on how to bring this ridiculous idea into a reality once they returned back home to Texas.
The premise: raise funds for a local non-profit animal charity by holding a beard and moustache competition for dogs (with one rule stipulation that if a goat showed up, it would also be allowed to compete).
And that’s exactly what they did.
Four years later, and the AFHC is about to host their 5th Annual Dog Beard and Moustache Competition. Thus far, thousands of dollars have been raised and donated to several different local non-profit animal rescues, advocacy groups, and educational scholarships. This is just one of the fundraisers the AFHC puts on each year. No goats have showed up to compete in the Dog BMC yet. But we wait...
Since that very first time I was on stage as an emcee for AFHC’s contest, I’ve participated in numerous additional fundraising events with the club. We’ve raised money for Livestrong, F.A.R.M. (Farmers Assisting Returning Military), Caritas of Austin, Out Youth, Inside Books Project, SXSW Cares, Love-A-Bull, the Austin Animal Center, Austin Pets Alive, the Wounded Warrior Project, the Schrodi Memorial Training Fund, and nearly a dozen more. I’m not tooting our club’s horn, but this is the one of the primary reasons I joined the AFHC. We jokingly say that “we’re a drinking club with a beard problem,” which is funny and makes sense considering we’re sponsored by Tullamore D.E.W. and Lone Star Beer. One could also say that “we’re a beard club with a charity problem.” That would be just as accurate.
As I travelled to other cities for beard competitions, such as Denver and Boulder, CO, Richmond, VA, and other cities across the state of Texas, I got to see how those clubs are leaving indelible marks on their communities. They do this by hosting beard competitions, fundraisers, and holding other events that benefit their communities. We’re not talking about a few small clubs speckled across the USA. There are hundreds of facial hair clubs from Florida to Alaska, Southern California to Maine, all of them holding events to raise money for local nonprofits and charities. Just to be clear, there are facial hair clubs all over the world doing the same thing.
Besides the hundreds of thousands of dollars being raised, imagine all the ripples being sent throughout the world of kindness, charity, and responsibility for leaving one’s environment and community better than one found it. That’s leadership. That’s why I’m a proud member of the Austin Facial Hair Club and why I’m proud to be a part of this community of beardos.
And I know first hand about the ripples. Because this year Bully Ranch, a pit bull rescue and animal sanctuary founded by my wife Diane (also an AFHC member) and me, is the beneficiary of the 5th Annual Dog Beard and Moustache Competition, which is this Saturday, October 20th, from 2 PM to 10 PM at The Little Darlin’ in Austin, TX.
Remember, this event was started from an off-hand remark and manifested into reality by Bryan Nelson and Taylor Welden about five years ago. From those ripples emerged an animal rescue inspired by the Dog BMC with the potential of saving thousands of dogs and helping to end Breed Specific Legislation (BSL).
That’s leadership. That’s responsibility. That’s what this community is all about.
Paul E. Hendricks is an award winning author and public speaker, storyteller, friend of Taylor Welden, AFHC member, pitbull and mischief enthusiast. He’s been named America’s Best Looking Author and voted Most Handsome in the Austin Facial Hair Club. He’s very humble. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.