Jan. 11, 2011
SAN FRANCISCO -- It began with silly mustaches, masses of facial hair and laughs, but ended with an emotional gesture for a man with a life-threatening illness.
Four months ago, the University of San Francisco baseball team brainstormed ideas for raising money for a charity. They had no idea where that plotting would lead or the fun that would be had along the way.
For years, head coach Nino Giarratano has preferred that his players not sport facial hair. So imagine the players' delight when Giarratano informed his team that it would be participating in "Movember," which challenges men to change their appearances and the face of men's health by raising money through growing mustaches and facial hair.
"The more "mature" I become the more I try to find ways to stay connected with the youth of my players," Giarratano said. "And I looked at the Giants' success with the Fear the Beard slogan and it loosened me up a bit."
At the beginning of November, the Dons' players, staff, alumni and members of the athletic department began growing mustaches. By months' end the group had assembled an entertaining array of 'staches. The fundraising ability and the sheer fun of the task prompted the program to extend its effort through the month of December as well.
While, the original idea was to raise money for prostate cancer, another idea crossed Giarranto's mind. Weighing heavily on Giarranto was the struggle his best friend of 38 years was going through. Nearly a year ago, Jeff Redfern suffered a massive seizure that forced him to be airlifted from his town of Durango, Colo. to Denver. Doctors soon discovered that he had a tumor the size of a golf ball in his brain. A tumor that was benign, but inoperable.
Redfern, who worked as a civil engineer in a three-man firm, was soon put on seizure medicine and began undergoing chemotherapy treatments. The insurance costs started to overwhelm his small company. Redfern, who is married with two children, had to resign and has been unable to work since.
"We were looking for a way to raise money for a friend in need of assistance and I kind of had a light bulb moment that we could link Movember and his cause together," Giarratano said.
Suddenly the fundraising effort took a new life. Former USF great Tagg Bozied and a number of his former teammates became heavily involved in the cause. Bozied even went "sleepless in San Francisco" for more than 24 hours to raise more money. Click here to read about his adventure.
By the end of the fundraising push, the USF baseball program raised $7,500.
Giarratano presented the money to his friend during the holidays.
"It was a total surprise at Christmas," Redfern said. "I was shocked at the type of effort that Nino and his team put together to help me. I can't say thank you enough to everyone."
After seeing the success of the project, Giarratano plans to make this a yearly event to teach his players the importance of giving back at a young age to communities and people in need. Instead of donating to causes, the program will look to find families with specific needs.
"It's more personal to know that we are actually helping a specific person and not just a broad cause," Dons' third baseman Stephen Yarrow said. "It's neat to actually be able to see the difference you can make in someone's life."
Nearly 200 people came together to donate to the cause.
"Thank you to everyone that stepped up to help USF baseball from friends, parents, players, alumni and friends from Colorado that helped to raise an enormous amount of money for a good man," Giarratano said.