As a month long event to raise money for the Hospice & Palliative Care Program at Nationwide Children's Hospital; Novembeard participants not only grow a beard, but also help grow awareness for this all-important program. With the event in its 7th consecutive year, and an initiative we actively support, Cliff Original sat down with David Rhodeback and Laura Rozcicha to hear the history of Novembeard, and to learn a few things about the Hospice & Palliative Care program.

- David Rhodeback, Co-Founder of Novembeard -

For those who are familiar with No-Shave November or Movember, what makes Novembeard different?

For the most part, when those initiatives were created they were meant to support men’s health awareness with an emphasis on prostate cancer. Our aspiration was to raise funds specifically for the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Hospice & Palliative Care program. Novembeard is unique in the fact that we’re focusing on children.

How did the idea for Novembeard come about? 

While working at Nationwide Insurance in 2011, a few coworkers and I came up with the idea. At the time one of the women on our team was fundraising with an organization of all women (The Pleasure Guild), supporting the Hospice & Palliative Care program, and it was a program we felt the need to stand behind.

How has Novembeard grown over the years?

The first year we raised $1,500 total and we had about 50 Novembearder participants. Since 2011, we’ve raised over $110,000 with hundreds of Novembearders.

Tell us what Novembearders can expect as participants? 

We have an annual kick-off party; this year it’s going to be held at the North High Brewing Production Facility (1125 Cleveland Ave) on October 29th. During this event, we invite participants to sign up on the spot. We’ll have Novembeard swag bags, growlers, t-shirts, raffle drawings, music, entertainment and more. This also marks the first year that we’ll have an official Novembeard beer crafted by North High Brewing.

On November 9th, Jared (Friesner) and I will be guest bartending at Elevator Brewing, where all the tips and 20% of sales go towards Novembeard. In addition to several happy hour events, Fado Irish Pub at Easton will also offer the Novembeard beer as the beer of the month, and special promotions for those who sign up and donate.

November 30th is the big culmination of the initiative where we host a “Shave Off” event at Fado Irish Pub of Easton, for participants to shed their beards grown throughout the month. Local barbershop and partner, Holy Moses, is there to make sure participants get a great shave. Novembeard beer will be available, music, Novembeard growlers and t-shirts, raffles, and more

Can individuals participate if they don’t grow a beard?

Absolutely! You don’t have to grow a beard to help out. We’ve created three different ways in which individuals can participate. The first is the most basic, a Bearder; someone who wants a clean shave on November 1st and to raise money while growing out a fresh, new beard during the month. The second is a Legacy; where they might have an established, epic beard, but still want to contribute to raising money. Many of these Legacy participants will do a “shave it or save it” social media campaign encouraging voters to weigh in, and whichever side raises the most money that’s what they ‘ll do. One of our bearders, Zac, has done it for three years and has managed to raise $12,000. The third type is a Supporter; someone who can’t grow a beard for whatever reason, but still wants to help out and raise money. Some of our women supporters have taken pictures of them and their kids with fake beards as a fun way to participate.

Where do you see Novembeard in 3 years?

If you look at our growth from 2011 to now, we’ve raised over $110,000 in those 6 years. There’s even more potential there as we partner with more and more local businesses and individuals who want to get involved. Our community has so much passion around Novembeard and the Nationwide Children’s Hospital. My hope is that within the next 3 years, Novembeard will raise enough money to fund the entire Hospice and Palliative Care Program budget from year to year. We encourage people to come experience the events, learn more about the Hospice & Palliative Care program, and discover how you truly can ‘Grow a Beard. Make a Difference’.

- Laura Rozcicha, Hospice & Palliative Care Manager at Nationwide Children's Hospital -

Tell us a little bit about the Hospice & Palliative Care program for those that are not familiar.

We’re the only Hospice & Palliative Care program in a nine county area around Columbus. We serve about 55 pediatric patients in the comfort of their own homes, working with kids living with terminal diagnoses, and a wide spectrum of palliative care patients that will live years but who have life limiting conditions .

What’s the core focus of the Hospice & Palliative Care program?

It’s really about quality of life. Some families pursue every kind of intervention option, some families choose not to do any, and we have a wide range of families who make choices in between. It’s our job to just journey alongside wherever that family’s decision lies, support their decision, and help coordinate with the physicians who take care of them, but with the goal of keeping them at home vs. having to go into the hospital all the time.

With patients with diverse needs, how are you able to provide them care?

We have ten team members including several nurses, a music therapist, massage therapist, social worker, chaplain, and child life specialist.

Our child life specialist focuses on the siblings who can sometimes get lost in all of this. We try to use this role as a way to help siblings understand what’s going on, but also to feel special. They do a lot of memory making activities like creating canvases with the families’ handprints of something that’s meaningful to the whole family.

Our music therapist often works with our non-verbal patients who don’t get a lot of social interaction. We’ve witnessed some really impactful results from  music therapy—kids reaching for things, cooing, or vocalizing in a way that moms and dads have never seen them do before.

In addition to face-to-face counseling, we offer a support group once a month on Saturdays for families whose kids are in the program. It’s a nice way to bring together families that may feel isolated. We also do bereavement counseling for 2 years, which is really important. Most hospice programs do the minimum 13-month requirement but we do 24 months. After a loss, a lot of parents aren’t ready to hear from us for several months, so we’ve extended that time. Mailing cards for anniversaries of important dates (like birthdays) is also a way we try to show our ongoing support.

How did you become involved with Novembeard?

I became the Hospice & Palliative Care Manager shortly after David started it with a member of the Pleasure Guild at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. He heard about what we do, and was eager to raise money for us. Since then it’s really just taken off. David’s been a great advocate for us in the community, making it one of his missions in life. It’s something that he feels passionate about, which is admirable given he has not personally experienced what many of the parents are challenged with.

How has the Novembeard program been able to help your initiative and what you do?

The services we provide our patients and families are – very often non-billable, we can’t get paid for them. We’re grateful to have a community partner, Sam’s Fans, which helps to fund our music therapy, however the need is continually growing. The money raised through Novembeard helps to cover those services, and it’s a direct impact on the patients.

What would you tell someone to encourage him or her to participate in the initiative?

Our goal is to help these patients achieve the best possible quality of life—take an unimaginable situation and create a more positive experience. The more patients we care for the more important it is to have the availability of these services. When people donate they’re directly helping to provide comfort for our kids, and I can’t think of anything better than that.

Sign up, donate, sponsor or just stay up-to-date with all things Novembeard here:

NationwideChildrens.org/Novembeard

Facebook.com/NovembeardForNCH

@novembeard_for_nch on Instagram