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‘We never set out to create a global movement,’ Movember co-founder Adam Garone says. But things just turned out that way.

MARK BLINCH/The Globe and Mail

The Donor: Adam Garone

The Gift: Co-founder, Movember

The Reason: To finance prostate cancer and mental health charities worldwide

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One Sunday afternoon in 2003, Adam Garone was having a beer with his brother and a friend in Australia when their conversation turned to mustaches and why they had fallen out of favour.

Mr. Garone, who is from Melbourne, was working for Vodafone PLC at the time, while his brother and friend were in the fashion industry. After a few more beers, they came up with a challenge: Each had to grow a mustache during the month of November, which they renamed "Movember," just to see what would happen.

"What was really interesting that first year was the amount of conversation and controversy growing a mustache created," Mr. Garone, 42, recalled. "My boss wouldn't let me see clients, my girlfriend didn't like it. It was really interesting there were all these stigmas around growing a mustache."

They decided to do it again the following year, but this time they wanted to make it more meaningful. And so Movember became a fundraising event for prostate cancer charities. About 450 men in Australia participated that year, raising $54,000. The idea caught on and, within a few years, Movember spread to New Zealand, Britain, the United States and Canada, where it got a boost from dozens of National Hockey League players who joined the cause.

Today more than one million men in 21 countries participate in Movember each year. The movement has raised more than $440-million in total since 2003, and Mr. Garone is adding other events, such as fun runs, to get women involved. Last year, Movember raised $42.6-million in Canada, the second-highest total of any country behind Britain.

Mr. Garone, who spent 10 years in the Australian army, now runs Movember out of Los Angeles. He already has a decent mustache but plans to start clean shaven on Nov. 1. "I'll do something different this year," he said with a smile. Then he added: "We never set out to create a global movement. We just wanted to do something for our community."

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