Beard club raised money by posing as mermaids in calendar
Some sweet, bearded souls from Canada dressed as mermaids and posed for a photo shoot for a hilarious calendar to raise money for a charity that helps people manage their mental health. Gentlemen from the Newfoundland and Labrador Beard and Moustache Club turned their fun merman project into $300,466 in donations from sales of the calendars for Spirit Horse, an organization that enhances the mental health and life skills of people using therapeutic interaction with horses.
The group of guys dubbed themselves Merb’ys aka merman with beards. Hasan Hai, founder and president of the beard club and the organizer of the calendar, spoke to Scary Mommy about the project’s international success. “An old friend of mine shared a photo of a bearded fellow dressed as a merman from a ‘dudeoir’ photo shoot, and said, ‘Hasan, you should do something like this!’ Like all of my best ideas, virtually no thought went into my immediate YES,” he said. “From there, I put up a post on my own Facebook asking if anyone was interested in this wild and ridiculous idea of a calendar of bearded mermen, and I was overwhelmed with friends and strangers who wanted to be a part of this.”
“The fellows who signed up did so for various reasons. Most of them thought it would be a fun exercise and as long as someone else was leading the charge (which I was), they were open to doing something a bit different for a good cause,” Hai shared. “Many of them pushed through significant social anxiety and body image issues to do exactly that and benefited greatly from this experience.” I can only imagine how uncomfortable these dudes felt. I don’t like pictures of myself where I’m fully clothed let alone barely dressed and posed on a beach. But the men pushed past their nervousness and formed several new friendships, Hai said.
Their calendar was such a hit that it quickly went viral and sold out, which was extremely rewarding for the men who had decided from the beginning to donate the proceeds. “Doing this for a non-profit or charity group was never in question – I never had any interest in doing this for profit. One of our club’s core values is giving back to the community,” Hai explained. “This seemed like a fun way to do so!”
The week before the calendar idea, Hai learned about the nonprofit Spirit Horse. “I happened to have attended the opening of the ‘Hope Arena’ which is an indoor arena where people can interact with horses. Erin Gallant, who founded Spirit horse, spoke passionately about her organization and how they help people with mental illness. I knew in that moment that this was a group I wanted to support,” he said. The support from the beard club was unanimous.
Enter photographer Andrea Edwards, who did several of the photos for the MerB’ys calendar. “I’ve never photographed anything like this before, not even cosplay. I’m a photographer and a journalist, so photojournalism is typically my style,” she told Scary Mommy. “This took me out of my comfort zone, and I loved every minute of it. The guys didn’t refuse a single pose that I suggested, and they look so relaxed because we were laughing throughout the entire thing.” Not even cold temperatures could keep the bearded mermen from having fun. “Despite it being very chilly, everyone was in great spirits,” Edwards said. “How can you not laugh when you’re sporting a mermaid tail and a glittery beard?!”
Edwards also used the experience to teach her daughter about why helping others is essential. She explained, “It’s been the most rewarding experience that I’ve ever had and my 17-year-old daughter Darcie assisted me, so she’s learned right alongside us how people coming together for a common cause can truly make a difference!” The reaction from fans has been a great bonus for the team as well. “The feedback has been incredible from all across the world. It’s been amazing how much people appreciate what we’ve done and really ‘get it,'” Edwards shared. “The whole purpose was to raise awareness for mental wellness and body positivity, giving people something to lighten up their day, giggle or laugh, and ultimately [raise] a donation for Spirit Horse.”
While the beard club is mostly a social organization, it prides itself on “bringing people together from all walks of life, genders, ethnicities, sexual orientations, etc. who value diversity and want to give back to our community in a significant way,” Hai said. The men certainly made a splash with their large donation. “My reaction was complete shock,” Gallant, who runs Spirit Horse, told CBC News. “I still haven’t processed what I am going to do with it. I know it’s going to help a lot of people for a very long time.”
Hai told us what it was like when they presented the check to Spirit Horse. “Tears, screams, shock. The room was full of people openly sobbing,” he said. “They recognized just how powerful our campaign was, and the impact we were going to have on this organization and the community as a whole as people who desperately needed access to programs not paid for from our provincial health care, would now be able to get access.”