By: Laura Sinclair

Cancer is a terrible disease that effects millions world-wide every year. In the case of former McMaster swimmer, Naomi Cermak, the disease struck this year, when the doctor’s told her that she was diagnosed with Stage IV melanoma.

Naomi graduated from McMaster’s kinesiology undergrad program in 2004, and after getting her Masters degree at Brock University, she revived her PHD in Kinesiology in 2010, also at McMaster. She won the Young Investigators Research Award in 2008, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada doctoral award (2007-2010), and Ontario Graduate Scholarship. Naomi was a swimmer for the McMaster swim team, where she made it to the OUA finals all 5 years of competing.  She was also the Captain of the Swim Team in her final two years at Mac. This high-performing, talented student athlete received the shocking news of her diagnosis in November and is currently undergoing chemotherapy treatment.

The news also effected the lives of family and friends, one of them being  former swim team, cross country, track team member and McMaster grad student  Andrew Bysice, who wants to do anything he can to help raise money for his friend, Naomi.

In order to do this, Bysice started a “Fear the Beard” campaign to help raise money for melanoma research.

Bysice initially grew out the beard for superstitious purposes for his indoor track season, but after hearing the news that Naomi was diagnosed with melanoma, decided to use his growing beard as a method to gain awareness and raise money for his friend. “It’s essentially just me growing a grotesque beard and getting people to donate to alleviate the pain on their eyes!” Said Bysice.

Over the last couple of weeks, The “Fear the Beard” campaign is well underway, with a YouTube video, a twitter hash tag (#fearthebeard), t-shirts being sold, and a donation page where all of the money raised will go to the Princess Margaret Cancer Research Centre to benefit melanoma treatment and research, as requested by Naomi. The Princess Margaret Hospital has also opened a special melanoma immunotherapy fund thanks to the Fear the Beard campaign’s contributions.

Bysice suggests many ways for people to get involved in Naomi’s fight against melanoma: “People can buy a shirt and wear it around campus, donate to my donation page, and if other people want to get involved with shaving their beards as well, then come and join!”

The “Fear the Beard” Campaign’s first cut-off date is March 15th, as Bysice will be shaving his beard before Relay for Life at McMaster. The Campaign has no real end date, however, as donations can still be given to the campaign after the March 15th deadline. “If more donations are coming after that we will gladly accept.” Said Bysice.

As for the future of the “Fear the Beard” Campaign, there are still goals to be achieved and Bysice hopes that money can still be raised in years to come. The challenge of growing another long and itchy beard, however, is another thing. “Hopefully, we can keep this thing going for next year…however, I don’t know if I can grow another beard for this long! Someone else might need to take up the challenge!”

Twitter: #fearthebeard

YouTube: Cancer will fear the beard

T-shirts: e-mail bysicea@gmail.com

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