It makes a darn catchy slogan: "The United Way: Thanks to you, I might actually have to get a haircut."
It's that time of year when many companies in the Top of Utah kick off their annual United Way fundraising drives. Oh sure, these corporate-based charity campaigns have gotten a little heavy-handed at times. Indeed, who can forget the now-famous '98 campaign slogan, "Make a Sizable Donation or Kiss That Promotion Goodbye, Pal"? But honestly, it's for a good cause, and I personally have known people helped by United Way funding.
This year here at the Standard-Examiner, while discussing our own company strategies for encouraging donations (top vote-getter: random waterboardings), someone suggested that perhaps we should employ two of the newspaper's high-profile columnists in the fundraising efforts. Yes, sadly, substance abuse continues to plague this industry.
And then, somewhere along the line, one of those two columnists -- and I think it's important we don't start pointing fingers; let's just say mistakes were made and leave it at that -- issued a challenge to his colleague: a charity fundraising contest to the death.
See, I'm much too cheap to pay for haircuts, so I've got this freakishly long hairdo now. And fellow columnist Charlie Trentelman has for decades sported a rather ratty-looking beard. Between us, we kinda look like opposite ends of a Wookiee (won't tell you which end is which).
And thus was born The Contest: Whoever raises the most money for the United Way gets to relieve the other of his frightening follicular features. It's his beard vs. my hair.
In the interest of fairness, I suppose I should point out that you can turn to the cover of the local section in today's newspaper and see Charlie's take on all of this. And although, as of this writing, I haven't actually seen what he's spewing today, kindly bear in mind that the man is a chronic liar who once insisted that he invented baseball, the Internet, "Guitar Hero" and air.
So here's why you should donate money to me:
1. Seeing me with short hair is no big deal. Most of my life, I've had short hair. I've only been growing it out for about a year now. Besides, nature is rapidly making the hair-growing issue moot.
2. Seeing Charlie de-bearded would be HUGE. Like 9.5-magnitude-earthquake-completely-levels-Manhattan huge. This guy has had his whiskers since 1975. His lovely wife of 30-plus years has never seen him clean-shaven. Meaning, none of us has seen him that way, either.
In other words, Charlie's face is like a 16th-century map of the world. Unknown. Uncharted. Unexplored. And here's your chance to be Magellan.
3. Wouldn't you prefer to root for the underdog?
Charles is, quite frankly, a fundraising juggernaut. He's raised thousands upon thousands of dollars for all sorts of worthy causes. Multiple sclerosis. Food banks. Disabled veterans.
Me? I once spent a half-hour trying to convince a co-worker to loan me a quarter for the vending machines. So my odds of winning a fundraising competition against Chuckles the Moneymaker are somewhere in the getting-hit-by-the-UARS-satellite ballpark. Still, I do love a good challenge.
Which is where you come in, by donating to the United Way in my name. Here's how:
1. Mail a check to me at the Standard-Examiner, P.O. Box 12790, Ogden, UT 84412. Please make the check payable to the United Way, NOT to me. (My parole officer says I'm still prohibited from handling other people's money.)
2. Don't trust me? Mail a check directly to the United Way, 2955 Harrison Blvd., Suite 201, Ogden, UT 84403. VERY IMPORTANT: On the check's memo line write "Mark Saal."
3. Call the United Way at 801-399-5584 to donate by credit card. Again, make sure to tell the receptionist your donation is in support of yours truly.
And finally, in a shameless attempt to get you to donate -- either to myself or Charlie -- I'm going to play the guilt card.
Earlier this summer, I had 47 pairs of tickets to give away to a screening of the final "Harry Potter" movie. I happened to mention it in a column, figuring I'd get a few dozen takers. I received more than 800 emails in two days. EIGHT HUNDRED EMAILS!
Please tell me that a Hollywood movie isn't more important to us than supporting a worthwhile charity.
So there you have it. The choice is clear: Cut the hippie's hair, or shave the homeless-looking guy's beard. And, help the needy in the process.
I trust you'll do the right thing.
But if not? Hey, at least I get a free haircut out of it.
If he wins, Mark Saal insists next year's fundraiser will step it up a notch -- possibly involving either a neck tattoo or a vasectomy for the loser. Contact him at 801-625-4272 or firstname.lastname@example.org.