Moving Men Toward Better Health
Since he was a young boy Robert Huffman (Florida Atlantic University, 2012) has been on a mission to merge business with philanthropy and since October 2017 he has worked as the community development manager for the Movember Foundation. “After working in aviation finance for five years, I was fortunate enough to gain exposure in international business development and really enjoyed the aviation industry,” Huffman said.
Though he was happily working in finance, when a position opened on the development team at Movember he decided he had to give it a shot. Movember is the leading charity changing the face of men’s health by addressing some of the biggest health issues faced by men: prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and mental health and suicide prevention. As community development manager, Huffman works to further educate and empower men to be proactive with their physical and mental health. “The stats don’t lie,” Huffman said. “Men are dying six years younger than women, and mostly from preventable causes. As men, we need to do a better job talking about our health and not be ashamed or too ‘tough’ to go to the doctor. We’re not so tough when we die too young, that’s for sure.”
“Although our Movember community consists of all demographics, my role is specifically focused on high schools and colleges,” Huffman said. “I have a passion for working with young men who are enthusiastic for making an impact and not afraid to disrupt the norm. Movember was founded on the phrase ‘havin’ fun, doin’ good’ and young guys already know how to have a good time, my job is to simply give them the opportunity to do some good.”
Huffman’s grandfather inspired him to become involved with Movember. “My inspiration comes from a man I never actually met,” Huffman said. “His name was Earl James, Jr. and he was my grandfather. His fraternity nickname was ‘Sonny’ because of his constant ability to make others laugh, yet he silently suffered from depression. Sonny took his life at the young age of 37. Movember’s mission is simple: to stop men dying too young. The mustache is our hairy ribbon for men’s health and meant to encourage men to take action in our physical and mental health. This is why I grow a mustache. For men like Sonny, who died far too young.”
As an undergraduate, Huffman served as student body president. He was selected as the 2013 Student Affairs Leader of the Year. He also served as chapter president of Iota Nu Chapter and was selected as the 2011 FAU Fraternity Man of the Year. He graduated with a bachelor of business administration in marketing management and business administration.
“Iota Nu Chapter first started participating in Movember in 2009 when we were looking for ways to support our veteran brothers who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after multiple deployments,” Huffman said. “The first year was small, but we laid a good foundation using Movember’s online peer-to-peer fundraising platform. Then the second year we got the sororities involved and this is when it really took off. We hosted a Miss Movember pageant and the sororities got the chance to shave our face at the cost of a small donation to kick off the month clean shaven. The sororities would sell shirts, make videos and help us promote men’s health until we finished off the month with a ‘Stache Bash’ on Nov. 30. It quickly became a Delt tradition that separated us from the other fraternities largely due to the support from the sororities.”
From just a few mustaches in 2009, the campaign quickly grew over the years and became the leading philanthropy on campus, raising more than $20,000 annually. “I’d like to say we set a good framework for our successors to follow, but I truly owe it to all the brothers for their creativity and pure grit. Embarking on the hairy journey for 30 days isn’t always easy, but that’s the point. Knowing no man is an island is what being in a fraternity is all about, exactly what Movember stands for. The Movember campaign is now a Delt tradition for the Iota Nu Chapter and I’m proud to say they’re still growing mustaches every year. As a matter of fact, they were nationally ranked as the top fundraising fraternity for the 2017 campaign, raising more than $29,000.”
Huffman created the annual Denver 5K for Men's Health and Mental Health Awareness in 2016. “After graduating from FAU, I got a job in aviation finance which quickly relocated me to Denver. I needed to make new friends and I still felt tied to the Movember cause, so I decided to start the Movember Denver 5K. The first year had only 40 runners, and thanks to some incredible friends I met along the way, the second year took off and we had more than 120 people come out to show off their ‘staches and run for men’s health. I recently moved to Los Angeles in 2017, so my good buddy took [over] the lead on organizing the event and I’ve been lucky enough to make it back every year so far.”
Huffman and the Movember staff are working on the 50 Million Men initiative. “Our goal is to help 50 Million American men from diverse backgrounds in the next five years through our programs: TrueNTH Testicular Cancer, TrueNTH Prostate Cancer and Making Connections initiatives,” Huffman said. “The latter is a community-based program, focusing on mental health and suicide prevention with 14 sites across the U.S. However, we can’t do this alone and we’ll be calling on any and all people to help, especially women. Women are the key holders to a man’s health and have incredible influence in getting the men in their life to talk about their health and actually go to the doctor more often than never.”
Movember’s 2030 goal is to reduce the number of men dying prematurely by 25 percent. “Additionally, we’d love to see every man grow a mustache in Movember by that time as well,” Huffman said. “But in the meantime, I’m working to grow our Student Ambassador program and work with student leaders to build a sustainable movement on campus that has purpose and impact. I think the students can raise more than $1 million this year, but it’s going to take a lot of mustaches to make that happen, so we’ll see.”
“We’re also looking to launch an Educational Partnership program for national fraternities and college athletic conferences,” Huffman said. “We have a wealth of men’s health information and resources that need to be distributed to men and boys, so finding organizations to help us get this out to the public is a high priority going forward.”
“Thank you to Delt for opening up doors I never knew existed and challenging me to rethink what it means to be a better man,” Huffman said. “I’d also like to note mustaches are not required to participate in Movember. We have a few other ways to support men’s health such as a MOVE fitness challenge, where we ask men and women to run/walk 60 miles in November to represent the 60 men who take their life every hour.”