Why this Doswell man has spent his last five years growing a beard

Posted at 5:25 PM, Dec 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-08 12:17:32-05

DOSWELL, Va. -- A Doswell man is putting five years of effort on the line this month in order to raise money for Children's Hospital of Richmond at VCU (CHoR) as he auctions off the decision to shave or keep his beard named Petunia.

"Save It or Shave It" is a fundraiser Brian Thompson is putting on with the RVA Beard League where people can vote on what will happen to the facial hair Thompson has been growing for nearly five years, with the plan always being to auction it off.

"It'll be five years old on December 16," said Thompson, the same day that voting will end. "It's kind of crazy wild. I've never had a beard before. And this, literally, I grew it to do it. It's still growing, though. So, I figured, might as well before it gets caught and something happens to it, then let's go ahead and try this year."

Thompson said his family is always looking for ways to give back to the community and he wanted to do something that his nine-year-old son could have fun with as well, as he and his wife have been involving him with

"CHoR was always the place. And, again, doing a lot of work with my son was, he's kind of the motivation. He's only nine. He doesn't even remember me without a beard at this point," said Thompson. "Do something with him, something for children, and, kind of, help him, you know, having him help me with it and do it with me."

Thompson said he and his son have gone to beard competitions together, with his son competing in the creative division. Thompson has competed and won in the 12-inch and up categories and, more recently, the 18-24 inch category.

"I don't know when my terminal length is going to hit," said Thompson, referring to the maximum length each person can grow. "I've trimmed off 18 inches in the past four years to keep it growing. So, if I'd known that I didn't need to, well, it could be that much longer."

As for where the idea came from to growing something and potentially being paid to get rid of it, Thompson points to his childhood.

"When I was about six years old, I grew a rat tail and it annoyed everybody so much they finally paid me to get rid of it," said Thompson. "My brother pointed out the other day. He said, 'You know you have a way of pissing people off just enough to the final where they'll pay you to stop it.' And I said, 'Yeah, that's kind of the gift.'"

Weekly vote totals for the two sides are posted in a Facebook group, but Thompson is kept in the dark as to who is winning, although, he does have his preferred outcome.

"I would love to keep Petunia. It's a lot of fun for me," said Thompson, referring to the name he gave his beard based on how one of his dogs only sniffs two things. "Flowers in the yard as soon as they start blooming and my beard. So, I just named it after a flower and I thought Petunia was a goofy name for that."

And much like the beard itself, Thompson said he's come to love the beard culture as well and engaging with others in that world.

"Fell in love with it. I've seen it, but, didn't quite realize how much it was out there," said Thompson, who along with competitions, which said all raise money for charities, took part in a world-record-breaking event to create the longest beard chain last month and plans to play Santa two days before voting ends. He added he also enjoys many of the perks of having a beard. "I like the look of it. It's funny and fun for me because little kids, year-, two years old, are either freaked out or they absolutely love it. They love seeing the braid and the little kids are the ones that really make the most fun for me."

As the day nears that Thompson's nearly five years of work could be reduced to a five o'clock shadow, Thompson hoped that people are able to give what they can to help save his beard and donate to a good cause.

"I know it's a tough time for a lot of people to be able to donate, but anything that people can do to help get the word out there that's kind of what I'm looking for," said Thompson. "And just to teach my son, one person can make a huge difference. And that's kind of what I want to really portray to him."

Voting takes place until Dec. 16. Thompson said should "shave it" win he has a special ceremony in mind to do it.



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