Playoff beards grown to benefit Baldwin's Relay for Life

| Wednesday, June 12, 2013, 7:06 p.m.

The Penguins might be out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but Baldwin high school is still home to a few die-hard fans that grow playoff beards every year for the National Cancer Society.

The initiative started three years ago when English teacher Keith Harrison brainstormed the idea to hold a playoff beard contest as a precursor to Baldwin's Relay for Life. This year the Penguins' extended post-season was torture for everyone donning some extra scruff.

“This is why Baldwin has a great staff,” Harrison said. “It requires teachers to put in a little extra time or sometimes it's just opening your wallet and dropping a buck. This is asking people, and their wives, to deal with a scratchy annoying mess for a good cause.”

This year the contestants raised $857, which will all be contributed to the Baldwin High School Relay Team.

Chemistry teacher Jon Tietz raised $138 as the No.1 teacher. He collected his funds from students in-between classes. Tietz lost his father, Ron to cancer and his sister, Esther, is still battling the disease.

“My beard was pretty pathetic,” Tietz said. “I think I got the sympathy dollar most of the time.”

The student winner was special education senior in the Tommy Mowers with $265.

“I grow my playoff beard every year,” Mowers said. “I'm the No. 1 fan of the Pittsburgh Penguins.”

Mowers received a little help raising his funds from physical education teacher, Tim Laughlin. Mowers gives the Penguins report every day in Laughlin's class to practice his speech and to keep his classmates up to date with hockey news.

“Tommy is a great student,” Laughlin said, “and to see that he gets into it [hockey] and the enthusiasm. It's just something that I want to support.”

Sophomore Matt Kuhn was the second student participant this year. He asked his friends and classmates to add their donations to his coffee can. The beard competition was a breeze for Kuhn, who has been wearing some scruff since the seventh grade.

Some teachers had a little more fun with the competition and held their beards hostage. Social Studies teacher Adam Foote threatened to shave his beard if his students could not produce $100 in a week. He even offered to let them choose a pattern to shave on his face if they came through a second week. One girl suggested a cat tail.

“They didn't come through so I shaved,” Foote said.

An event that started for a good cause, ended in good fun. The winners even receive the “coveted” trophy every year Harrison said. Both Mowers and Tietz received a razor taped to a hockey puck with hockey tape to mimic the shape of a standard trophy. The year is written on the puck with silver marker.

“We need to do more things like this in education,” Laughlin said. “Not just the books, but life lessons.”

Brittany Goncar is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5803 or

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