Mustaches for Kids wraps annual fundraiser

Long Beach co-founder discusses group’s mission to help children with cancer

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James and Stacey Bogdan, left, Holly and Vinny Leis, Billy and Jackie Kupferman, and Sarah and Justin Fitzmartin at Mustaches for Kids’ annual ’Stache Bash at the Long Beach Hotel on Nov. 4.
James and Stacey Bogdan, left, Holly and Vinny Leis, Billy and Jackie Kupferman, and Sarah and Justin Fitzmartin at Mustaches for Kids’ annual ’Stache Bash at the Long Beach Hotel on Nov. 4.
Photos by Jessie Farrell

Mustaches for Kids kicked off its annual fundraiser on Sept. 30 for children with cancer at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and the month-long initiative culminated with the ’Stache Bash at the Long Beach Hotel on Nov. 4.

Mustaches for Kids is a volunteer-run, national organization that supports children with cancer by having volunteers grow mustaches in order to generate donations. Friends and Long Beach residents Vinny Leis, Billy Kupferman, James Bogdan and Justin Fitzmartin launched the Long Beach chapter 11 years ago, and the group has raised more than $500,000 since it launched what has become one of the most popular fundraisers in town.

The Herald recently caught up with Bogdan, 36, who talked about how the effort has grown over the years, the outpouring of support from folks in town and how some volunteers have been mistaken for actors Tom Selleck and Burt Reynolds.

How did the Long Beach chapter of Mustaches for Kids come about?

Billy Kupferman had two students in his school who were diagnosed with cancer, and he wanted to find a way to help families in similar situations. As there was no chapter on Long Island, he decided to create one.

How does it work?

Men and women sign up to become “growers” for the month of October. They receive T-shirts and buttons that say, “Ask Me About My Mustache.” They can set up an online fundraising page to help collect donations. During the month, participants grow out their mustaches to attract attention and donations.

What made you get involved?

When I was approached with the idea, it was a no-brainer: grow a mustache, meet and hang out with great people, and help kids. I’m not sure who would say no to that.

You guys just wrapped your 11th year. How did this season’s fundraising effort go?

This season, like all others, was incredible. We had a solid group of returning growers, along with a large number of new recruits. On the eve of the ’Stache Bash, we had already raised over $50,000, and after the night concluded, we had broken the $70,000 mark.

Tell us about the ’Stache Bash.

The ’Stache Bash is the culmination of a month of hard work — and an itchy upper lip. The night marks our final fundraising push, as well as an evening to celebrate the incredible achievements of our growers.

How has the organization grown over the years?

We have grown in the number of participants each year, in the amount of money raised for the kids at MSK each year and we have grown in terms of our expectations for ourselves, and the organization as a whole. We’re always looking for ways to change things up and generate more interest in our weekly events. For example, we held a “family day” this year at Maple Lanes in Rockville Center. The event was a huge success, and the family-friendly environment opened the doors to usher in the next generation of growers to join in on the fun.

What has the reaction from people in town been like?

The reaction has been tremendous. At this point, the Mustaches For Kids campaign has become a household name in the community during the month of October. People are excited to be a part of a truly amazing movement for such a deserving cause.

What has the response been like from kids and staff at Memorial Sloan Kettering, especially during your annual visits?

Each year, we get the honor and privilege of being allowed to visit MSK and spend the day with the kids on the pediatric floor. “Mustache Day” at the hospital has grown tremendously since our first visit almost a decade ago. The hospital rolls out the red carpet for our organization, and it’s humbling to see them think so highly of our organization and be so supportive. Our goal that day is simple — let’s have fun and leave these kids and their parents with a smile on their faces.

Have any M4K volunteers been mistaken for Tom Selleck or Burt Reynolds?

Tom Selleck, Burt Reynolds, Flanders from “The Simpsons,” Borat, Super Mario — if you can think of a famous dude with a ’stache, I’m fairly certain we have been compared to them.

For more information about Mustaches for Kids and how to donate, visit www.m4kli.com.