WNC law enforcement agencies grow beards to raise cash for families fighting cancer

What started out as No Shave February for the Macon County Sheriff's Office has spilled over into March. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

The Macon County Sheriff's Office makes room for personal growth to help families in the fight against cancer. What started out as No Shave February has spilled over into March.

In a small town like Franklin, folks are quick notice when something's just a hair different.

"So, we found out quickly who could and could not grow a beard," Sherrif Robert Holland said.

So, it didn't take much detective work to figure out who was on board. Lt. Steve Stewart is among the dozens who paid to skip shaving last month.

"I would pay a lot more than $25 dollars for the relaxed shave policy," Stewart said.

"Here we are today looking like Grizzly Adams," Holland observed.

The hair raising idea is for Cancer Care of WNC.

"And I said, 'Listen guys, we're going to have No Shave February. If you'll donate so much money to the cause, I'll wave the policy of being able to grow beards," Holland explained.

Forty five signed up, including Detective Dani Burrows.

"I am shaved!" she said with a laugh.

"In fact, that's exactly right," Holland said. "Our females wanted to take part, too. So, we allowed them to wear jeans as long as they paid the same amount the male officers did."

The sheriff was inspired by his 7-year-old nephew, who's now in recovery after doctors discovered a brain tumor two years ago. Holland said a benevolence fund helped Elijah and his parents through a vulnerable time.

"That was such a blessing to our family that I knew there had to something like that in Western North Carolina," he said.

The effort at the Macon County Sheriff's Office has raised more than $4,100, and that's not including the other departments who stepped up. Sylva Police Department, Franklin Police and Highlands Police gladly grew beards, along with sheriff's departments in Cherokee, Jackson and Clay counties.

So many relate to the impact of cancer on families.

"I lost my grandfather in 1997 to cancer. So, when I donated my money, I wanted to do that in his name," Stewart said.

A couple of years ago, Detective Dereck Jones' mother-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer.

"She's a fighter. Unfortunately, I lost my uncle a few years ago to throat cancer," Jones said.

Deputy David Blanton lost his grandfather, cousin and mother to lung cancer.

"The individual that's sick with it is bad enough," Blanton said. "But it also affects family members watching them go through the pain and suffering from it."

"The effects on us, and what we see in the community, there's no better way to give back right now," Jones added.

Giving back has its perks. For example, Stewart's wife digs that beard.

"Course, I can't grow any on my head, but she loves the facial hair," he said.

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