Throughout November, Texas State University Police Department officers will be donating to cancer research funds—one beard at a time.
UPD will be coordinating a No Shave November campaign, where each participant pays a minimum of $25 in exchange for permission to grow a beard. At the end of the month, the money is to be tallied up and donated to a variety of charities focusing on cancer research, including the American Cancer Society and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
“All of us, at one time or another have been affected by cancer,” said Sergeant Rolando Belmares. “We have had either a family member, or a friend or know someone who has been affected by cancer. So this was a great way for us to get involved.”
Belmares was the supervisor of the officer that initially had the idea of organizing a No Shave November drive. The officer had friends at other police departments participating in similar initiatives. The officer pitched the idea to Belmares, who put together a proposal and submitted it to Chief of Police, Jose Bañales, who approved it immediately.
“Not only does this allow us to raise some money for a great cause, it’s a great way to do something different for our officers on patrol, since we have a policy that prohibits beards,” Belmares said. “We’re in a line of work where we aren’t allowed to have any beards or facial hair other than a small mustache, so this is a way to allow the officers to bypass that rule for a month.”
The division’s first No Shave November campaign took place in 2015, raising over $600. This year, the department is hoping to top that amount.
“I think it’s a very important program,” said Rodrigo Manzanares, police inspector. “Cancer is something that has had an effect on my life; I have had friends who have suffered from cancer. My first experience was when a schoolmate in my class was diagnosed. I remember very vividly, she would always come to class with a scarf on her head or a wig. The stigma that comes from being stared at or mocked must be very difficult for young people. So I was very aware of the kinds of sacrifices people have to make when they suffer from that kind of illness, especially at such a young age.”
Manzanares also had a family member pass away from cancer, leaving behind two small children and a husband.
“If I can do something to contribute money for that research, then I think that’s important,” Manzanares said. “It’s just a little drop in the ocean, but at least you’re doing something, having some impact.”
This is the first year Manzanares has participated in No Shave November, but he says it won’t be the last. Participation in the initiative by UPD personnel has increased by close to 50 percent since last year.
“I’m thankful the officers have committed and made it a reality here at the police department,” Manzanares said. “I just hope that more people decide to follow this example in the future, in their own departments.”
Belmares said the initiative has value, not only to the cancer patients who will benefit, but to the campus community here at Texas State.
“We know a lot of our public; we know students, faculty and staff who have been diagnosed with cancer,” Belmares said. “In our line of work, sometimes we see people at their worst times, and we understand what’s going on, and this is just a little bit of moral support we can give those people.”
In addition to raising money for the cause, No Shave November also serves as a way to spread awareness of cancer and cancer-related research.
“Last year we discovered that when people saw officers with beards, it would initiate a conversation,” Belmares said. “People would ask about it, and then we had the opportunity to talk about the initiative and spread awareness. Suddenly, people were sharing their stories of people in their lives who were affected.”
Belmares believes that these shared experiences serve as a way for officers to connect with the community on a personal level. Students seemingly share this perspective, in some form or another.
“I don’t feel that UPD does a whole lot to connect with students, so UPD participating in No Shave November is a good step toward being more than just a police department, but a symbol of justice and good heart,” said Brent Hearne, theater sophomore.
Come mid-November, students and faculty can expect to see men in uniform sporting beards of all shapes and sizes.
“Even though we wear a badge, we can relate on many different levels,” Belmares said.