During a recent trip to Seattle, Bomb Squad member Kurt Reinhardt stopped by our factory (“The Bombshelter”), where we got the chance to talk about his #CheekyMo design, his glorious beard, and his involvement in the Movember awareness movement. So far, all of the interviews I’ve done for blog posts have been done over email – so I was excited to hear his story in person.
Kurt is almost immediately clockable as a gentle giant; tall, broad-shouldered and strong, but with unmistakably kind eyes and a friendly smile behind that attention-grabbing beard. He seems like the type of guy to make friends everywhere he goes, and is unabashedly passionate about the things and people that he supports. It actually came as a surprise to me when he told me, later, that he had only just learned about us when he visited our booth at ECCC earlier this year. His enthusiasm for Bombsheller had me certain that he’d been a longtime Squad member.
He and his friend Rebecca, both proudly wearing their #CheekyMo Shells, had just come from a photoshoot on Capitol Hill with our photographer, Stephen Klise. I asked how the shoot went and Kurt said that it was the first time he’d really done something like that before – that he’d had a lot of fun with it and was eager to see how the final photos would turn out.
More so, he was excited for more opportunities to bring attention to The Movember Foundation, which aims to bring awareness to not only prostate and testicular cancer, but also men’s mental health and suicide prevention. We sat down to talk about his involvement in raising awareness and funds for the cause.
“Prostate cancer rates will double in the next 15 years. Testicular cancer rates have already doubled in the last 50. Three quarters of suicides are men. Poor mental health leads to half a million men taking their own life every year.”
“That’s one every minute.”
(via The Movember Foundation)
How long have you been raising money for this cause?
I’ve been doing it, I think, for about six years now, though I wasn’t super successful in raising any significant amount of funds at first. Over the years, people started to know me because I have the big, giant beard. So, instead of doing the traditional “shave everything off and grow a mustache for a month,” I decided to be creative and do all of my fundraising a month before Movember starts – people donate towards the cause and every dollar is a vote towards whatever colors I dye my beard for the month of November. It’s been a unique and really visual way of raising awareness and money and it’s been far more successful! It’s been fun!
So what initially prompted you to start doing this?
Honestly, initially, it was just kind of a fun, goofy thing to do. Then I started meeting people who were personally affected – friends whose fathers had died of prostate cancer.
The first year that I did the Pride beard, I was in the parking lot of a Whole Foods and a gentleman just happened to walk by and said, “Hey! What’s the deal with your beard?”
I said I was doing this to raise money for the Movember Foundation. He was about my age and said, tearing up, that he’d just lost his son of 23 years to testicular cancer. He was just a young man… it was very personal and emotional.
It became really personal when I realized that I had suffered from symptoms of severe depression over the years, including suicidal ideation…Movember became something I really became passionate about.
That’s why I walk around with this beard all the time, now. I sometimes carry a card to give to people that explains why I do this and how they can find my page to donate.
Was that first Movember the first time you dyed your beard, then?
It was the first time I’d dyed it, yeah.
What colors/themes have you done so far?
I’ve dyed it four times so far and this is the second time I’ve done the Pride beard. The other time was a Seahawks beard. Last year was the USA beard – red, white, and blue!
What led you to designing Shells to help raise awareness and money for the cause?
I discovered you guys last year at ECCC. I’d literally just walked by the booth and thought they were so cool – tried on a pair, bought them, and wore them!
I fell in love with your product; I liked that it was this cool, small, Seattle-based company. You’re obviously passionate about what you’re doing – handmade products, which is really cool. I bought a couple pairs and have worn them at different event and I started to realize, obviously, that your niche didn’t necessarily cater to men like myself. I thought it would be a really fun thing to do – as a way to generate awareness visually and in a creative way – to have this burly, 6’3” lumberjack guy wearing some cool leggings, and being able to generate not just awareness but funds by donating all my royalties to it!
You’re continuing to have the #CheekyMo Shells up through December, right?
Through at least the end of the year. We’ll see how sales go! It might be nice to pull them at some point and re-introduce them next year for Movember – and maybe a new design as well!
That actually answers my next question! We were wondering if you’d bring them back next year and if you’d create new designs.
Yeah! I think we’ll definitely come up for something new and fun for next year as well.
So, earlier you mentioned your own mental health struggles. You’re also very physically active; how has that changed your life? Do you feel that your own mental health has changed by being more active?
Oh absolutely. Yeah. I would say I’ve essentially reinvented myself over the last several years. I had reached a point where I was at my lowest physically and emotionally. For me, initially it was kind of cathartic to just do something different and work on rebuilding myself. I’ve become much more physically fit, but also emotionally much more stable and have engendered so many new relationships as a result of just being part of a community.
Starting new routines and keeping them can be difficult. How did you get started with Crossfit and how do you keep at it?
Honestly, I got horribly sick on a work trip and ended up going to the doctor. I had a horrible lung infection, so I worked from from my hotel room. I was laying in bed in my hotel and the Crossfit Games were on TV. They were doing monkey bars (or something fun like that) and I thought “that looks interesting; that looks fun enough and weird enough that I could probably get into it.
When I got home, I found a Groupon for a three month pass and I thought, “I’ll give this a whirl and if I like it, I’ll keep doing it.”
I was gung-ho to stat… and then broke my tailbone the next day.
Oh no! Seriously?
Yeah – I was unable to do anything physical for months. I think I got a reminder email saying the Groupon would expire in three days. It was right after my healing period, so, I walked into the gym and it was this tiny, grungy, old garage, like a lot of Crossfit gyms.
The owner was older and more grizzled – as someone who’s in his 40’s it was nice to not walk in and have it be this young guys’ gym. I don’t know what it was about it – I think part of it was the community that was there that everyone was so welcoming from the second I walked in the door that it really became kind of my home away from home.
In the beginning, I would throw up running 400 meters in a warmup. It wasn’t healthy. They’d joke, “this guys gonna have a heart attack!” but I just kept coming back. I just did it, and I started to see results, and I started to feel better about myself. I started to have better self image and that has helped tremendously. Now it’s a matter of how I maintain this as I get older.
Thank you so much for joining us, Kurt! Before we let you go – any final shoutouts you’d like to give?
Big shoutouts to all of the gyms that are kind enough to host me, wherever I am during my travels. Hermes Crossfit, which is my home gym, Foundation Crossfit in Seattle and Crossfit Deliverance are absolutely fantastic. United Barbell in San Francisco.
I do want to give a shout-out to the artist who helped design the leggings, Michael Hancock! A good friend of mine from my gym. Close to my age, also has a giant gnarly beard.
If you haven’t already, please make sure to go check out the #CheekyMo Shells. If you’d like to order a pair, make sure to do so before the end of December. Remember – they might go on hiatus until the next Movember!