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Cavaliers, Community Embrace "Lacrosse Mustache Madness"

On the field, defenseman Ken Clausen is the only three-time first-team All-American in Virginia lacrosse history. But when Clausen graduated in 2010, he also left behind a unique legacy off the field.

Of facial hair.

Clausen and Virginia athletic trainer Rebecca Vozzo founded "Lacrosse Mustache Madness" in the fall of 2009. The annual event uses mustaches as a way to raise money for the HEADstrong Foundation, an organization that raises money to cure blood cancers.

"It's a talking point, and that was really Ken's big thing," Vozzo explained. "When he goes to the library; or now, when he goes to different stores, or goes places. Who is this crazy guy with this mustache, and why does he have it?"

Virginia was one of less than 50 teams to participate in Mustache Madness. The event raised $32,000. Last year, in its third year, it raised $95,000, and more than 100 programs are participating this year.

"I was definitely down to grow out the 'stache," Virginia freshman James Pannell said. "I had a goatee for most of it. But I think a week into Mustache Madness, I went with the mustache."

"I've kind of embraced it," agreed fellow freshman Zach Wood. "I've got a lot of bad looks on campus, but you know, it's for a good cause. So I'm keeping it strong."

"And it's really grown over the last few years," said sophomore Owen Van Arsdale. "Now you look around, and there's high school teams doing it. There's club teams of old men growing mustaches, raising money."

"There's a group of kids in Uganda that are lacrosse players. And they've been growing mustaches, and we've got those pictures online," Vozzo said. "Like, it's just amazing to see all these people who think it's a fun way to support, and they all get behind it."

The fundraising is also a competition for college teams. The Mad Stache Trophy goes to the program that collects the most money for the HEADstrong Foundation. Virginia won the trophy its first two years, before losing to Syracuse last fall.

And the Cavaliers have some young allies in their fund-raising efforts. Students at Sutherland Middle School in Albemarle County -- where Clausen volunteered as a student at Virginia -- annually contribute money they collect to the total.

On Friday, students held a corn hole tournament for the first time as a fund-raiser.

"We're helping somebody. We're helping lots of people," teacher Jeff Criscione, the tournament's organizer, explained. "For me, personally, I lost my father to cancer about five months ago. So it's kind of driven me to spend more time on this."

Anyone interested in donating to Virginia's total -- or contributing to another school's fund-raising effort -- can donate at the official website of Lacrosse Mustache Madness." Visitors can also check out a collection of mustache pictures from the event.

And any mustache helps the cause -- whether it's fake or real.

"We realize that some teams are more gifted than others in the mustache department," said Wood. "So you try your best for the team, grow the best you can."

"It's pretty rewarding to know that something so small can bring the whole lacrosse community together, and we can do something really great for people who really need to benefit from this," said Van Arsdale.

"Easy enough for me," said Pannell. "If I'm helping somebody out by growing out a mustache, I'll do it all year long. That's fine with me."

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