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Beard brouhaha benefits causes

WHEN Taylor Gehring decided to use a gap between jobs to grow a full beard last year, he couldn’t have predicted how it would change his life.

Thanks to a deal with wife Kim—who said he could keep the full facial hair if it got 10,000 likes online (he’s now over 15,000)—the 31-year-old Stafford High School grad is now involved in:

  • An upcoming MTV reality show called “Save the Beard,” focusing on the way the couple resolves the fact that she wants him to shave the whiskers that he wants to keep.
  • A local effort to use his beard fame to raise $250,000 for the Children’s Miracle Network and the Rappahannock Area YMCA, largely with a beard and mustache competition event Saturday from 2 to 8 p.m. at Spotsylvania Towne Centre.
  • Spinoff opportunities that range from hosting a radio show to appearing in a book to speaking at beard-related events all over the country.

“It started as a funny challenge from my wife, getting 10,000 people to like my beard,” Gehring said of the Facebook page that caught the attention of people all over the world. “It’s become something we could never have imagined.”

The beard helped create the Beardimus Maximus persona that, in a way, has become his life, both in the business opportunities that national recognition has earned him and in the opportunity to do something good for the Fredericksburg area, where he grew up.

Gehring—whose father, Paul, runs the YMCA branch in Spotsylvania County and mother, Mimi, works at a Y in Stafford County—said he’s been raised in a family that believes in giving back.

That’s why he decided to use the fame and interest from the “Save the Beard” effort to do some good here.

Not only has he been in touch with beard-wearers, beard club members and even professional beard judges all over the country, he’s been soliciting donations, support and other contributions for the event for months.

“It’s a little hard to believe at times,” Gehring said over lunch one day recently. “It all started as kind of a joke.”

Not that he wasn’t serious about keeping his beard as the couple was about to move from Boston to Dumfries to pursue new job opportunities.

But when wife Kim kept asking when he was going to shave, the challenge to get 10,000 people to like the beard was thrown down.

“It went viral, from friends to people with beards to people who just got taken with the whole idea of someone keeping something they liked,” he said.

The social media buzz attracted interest from three television networks that wanted to do shows on it: VH1, A&E and MTV.

The couple liked the MTV presentation the most, and has been filmed off and on for the past several months.

“People think it’s going to be all about me, but a major focus is on my wife and how she wants me to shave it off,” Gehring said of the show, which the couple is being paid to do.

“Beyond that, I think they’re trying to tap into the whole idea of how couples who disagree on something resolve the issue,” he said.

From cycling classes to home moments to a day when Gehring visited Capitol Hill and talked to local legislators, MTV film crews have filmed hours with the couple.

They’ll be on hand this weekend when several hundred competitors, each paying $25 entry fees that go to the charities, will be judged in categories ranging from natural mustaches to business beards to full beards 12 inches and longer.

“There’s even a category for whole clubs to be judged,” said Gehring, who said he’s learned lots about beard aficionados, beard clubs and beard-related products, all part of the Saturday event.

Gehring said he’s keen on the fact that money raised in the efforts will stay in the area, which is why he chose the Rappahannock Area YMCA and got a commitment from the Children’s Miracle Network that money raised would be used here and nearby.

Though it happened by accident, Gehring—who’s previously worked as a UPS driver and as a restaurant manager—has now become an unofficial spokesman for bearded men everywhere, taking to social media daily to report reactions and twists to life with full facial whiskers.

He hopes the experience will lead to a job in the nonprofit field.

As to who prevails on the shaving of the beard his wife still wants gone, Gehring says we’ll have to stay tuned for the as-yet-unscheduled MTV show to come out sometime this fall to find out.

LOVE FOR THE BEARD

WHAT: A beard and mustache competition and fundraising event

WHEN: Saturday, 2–8 p.m.

WHERE: Spotsylvania Towne Centre

HOW MUCH: Free to the public; $25 to enter in any one of a dozen or so beard and mustache categories

PROCEEDS: To benefit the Rappahannock Area YMCA and Children’s Miracle Network

SPECIAL RECORD: At 1 p.m., sponsors will try to set a Guinness World Record by getting 1,700 people to wear fake mustaches.

MORE INFO: Go online to loveforthebeard.com.

Rob Hedelt: 540/374-5415

rhedelt@freelancestar.com

 

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