By Andy Tarnoff Publisher Published Nov 23, 2011 at 5:10 AM

Maybe we were a little ahead of our time when we invented Mustaches for Milwaukee, the 2002-03 charity that ultimately raised tens of thousands of dollars for the Child Abuse Prevention Fund. While we were pleased with our efforts at the time, our hairy charity garnered only a tiny percentage of the funds, publicity and participation of Movember, a now-international sensation.

Locally, you'll find tons of guys sporting 'staches for their favorite causes this month. Men like Dave Thorpe, a project manager at Direct Supply, who's dedicating his mustache to his father.

"He found out almost by accident that he had an 80-plus percent blockage in a carotid artery," says Thorpe. "Statistically speaking, men go to the doctor for routine physicals and concern themselves with their own health issues far less than their female counterparts. This culture needs to change."

An impressive 48 of Thorpe's colleagues are participating in Movember and are throwing a party at SPiN on Nov. 30 to celebrate the end of the mustache growing mission.

The parties don't stop there, either. Hotpop and Stag Barbershop are putting on a Movember party at Sugar Maple on Dec. 2 to raise money to support prostate cancer research (and OnMilwaukee.com is a proud sponsor).

"We are changing the men of Milwaukee, one mustache at a time," says Jess Stern, owner of Stag. She and her barbers are encouraging her clients to keep their 'staches when they come in for a traditional shave.

Local ad agencies like Laughlin Constable are getting in on the act, too. At LC, 14 men have joined up, concluding with their own party on at the end of the month that will crown the "Man of Movember" and "Sister of Movember," complete with mustache cookies and "pin the mustache on the face" games.

The campaign, even embraced by Brewers' closer John Axford (of course) just keeps growing and growing – pun intended.

In fact, some national heavy hitters are playing along, too.

One company that's thrown its weight behind Movember is Giorgio Armani Beauty. Its "Celebrity Makeup Artist," Tim Quinn, is a testicular cancer survivor, and when not making clients like Uma Thurman or January Jones even more beautiful, he's active in the cancer community.

Quinn has worked extensively with women who have undergone chemotherapy, employing makeup techniques to improve their self-esteem. He's also supporting his own cancer doctor Rick Lee, who is participating in Movember for the second year in a row.

"It's rather amazing that they walk the walk," says Quinn, who notes that his own physician doesn't look especially good with a patchy mustache.

"Dr. Lee is so funny. He asked me if he thought he could use mascara to fill in (his mustache) and I said I didn't think that would work. But the Movember movement is pretty amazing, and we at Armani have been very involved with it because it's a great campaign."

Lee, a cancer physician at Massachusetts General Hospital, has joined with his colleagues to grow mustaches, and they're raising some serious money this month. His team has collected more than $22,000 – and it doesn't hurt to have a cosmetic powerhouse like Armani standing behind the cause.

"I'm in the follicle-challenged category, but that's OK," says Lee. "I drew my inspiration from speaking to one of the founders of Movember. It's really remarkable how my enthusiasm has grown but it's much easier to come to work when others are growing mustaches, too."

Lee says that his patients like the idea of their doctors getting behind the cause.

"They've voiced their support," he says. "They see where a couple of dollars that they donate goes into a much larger pot and gets amplified through their participation. It's growing in a viral fashion."

Says Lee, "These men have seen how widespread breast cancer awareness is, and they're pleased to see that there's something they can do about (cancers targeting men)."

"Perhaps this will help encourage others to think creatively about fundraising."

Andy is the founder and co-owner of OnMilwaukee.com. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.

Before launching OnMilwaukee.com in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.

Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.