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Neighbors: Profiles of our community

Wailuku Patrol District Officer Marvin “Kalani” Miles is one of the 111 Maui Police Department officers currently participating in this year’s Beard It Up and Color for the Cure campaigns to raise awareness and funds for pediatric cancer research. Photo courtesy Kalani Miles

Don’t be surprised if you see a uniformed police officer with a stubbly beard or sculpted goatee directing traffic this month. Yes, it’s out of the ordinary, but the Maui Police Department is shedding its no-beard policy through the end of December for a very good cause.

For the third consecutive year, the department is raising money and awareness for pediatric cancer research through The Cure Starts Now’s annual Beard It Up and Color for the Cure campaigns. This year’s challenge started on Oct. 1 and will run through Dec. 31. Participating officers and civilians donate to The Cure Starts Now and grow beards, paint their nails or dye their hair (in some cases, bright shades of pink, blue or purple) to visibly show their support for kids battling cancer.

As of this week, 111 MPD officers had signed up to participate in the Beard It Up and Color for the Cure campaigns. Among them is Wailuku Patrol District Officer Marvin “Kalani” Miles, an 18-year veteran of the department. He shelved his razor when the challenge began on Oct. 1; he says people have taken notice of his burgeoning beard.

“I constantly receive comments regarding its growth,” Miles said.

As far as having facial hair on the job, he said, “It’s definitely something different, but it feels good to know that we are helping our children through this campaign.”

This is the second year Miles has sported a beard to bring attention to childhood cancer.

“My inspiration to participate in this wonderful event is to bring awareness of the need for research for our children,” he said. “Anything for our children.”

With that in mind, Miles says his hairy situation will end on New Year’s Eve.

“When we began participating in this campaign, we were allowed to donate and grow it for the month of October. We were then notified that if we donated again we could extend for the month of November,” he explained. “It has now been extended to the end of December granted that you make a third donation to participate. I will definitely participate every month, and upon ending the campaign, we all will have to shave, as per our departmental grooming policy.”

And these officers are making an impact. Last year, MPD surpassed its fundraising goal of $5,000, collecting $8,046.54 for The Cure Starts Now. As of yesterday morning, the department had raised $9,555.77, and with two months to go, is poised to blow past this year’s goal of $10,000. One hundred percent of the money raised will go directly to pediatric cancer research, which means every dollar makes a difference.

Cancer is the No. 1 cause of death by disease among children, and 43 kids in the U.S. are diagnosed with cancer every day, according to the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation. Even so, pediatric cancer research is consistently underfunded, receiving only 4 percent of federal funding for cancer research. That’s where organizations like The Cure Starts Now step in to help. Founded in 2007, the cancer research foundation is fiercely committed to finding a “home run cure” for all cancers by focusing on the “biggest bullies” — that is, the most deadly and difficult to treat — as well as successful treatments that can be broadly applied. And there’s one form of cancer directly in its crosshairs: diffuse intrinsic pontine gliomas (DIPG), highly aggressive pediatric brainstem tumors. With the help of fundraising efforts like Beard It Up and Color for the Cure, The Cure Starts Now has become the leader in DIPG research worldwide.

In addition to pediatric cancer research, Maui’s men and women in blue are rallying around other important causes this month. It is Breast Cancer Awareness and Domestic Violence Awareness month, which is why you’ll see Miles and many of his fellow MPD officers wearing pink and purple awareness patches on their uniforms throughout October. You can wear one, too: the department is selling the patches — purple for domestic violence awareness, pink for breast cancer awareness — to the general public and donating the proceeds to Maui-based support services.

“I would like our community to know that we will always be here for you,” Miles said. “And we will always do our best to contribute where we can, especially for these types of causes.”

To make a contribution to MPD’s ongoing Beard It Up and Color for the Cure campaigns, visit thecurestartsnow.salsalabs.org/beard-it-up/p/mauipolicedepartment/index.html. To learn more about The Cure Starts Now, visit thecurestartsnow.org. The pink and purple awareness patches are available for $10 apiece while supplies last. To purchase a patch, contact Officer Paul Pomainville at 244-6397 or paul.pomainville@mpd.net.

* Sarah Ruppenthal is a Maui-based writer. Do you have an interesting neighbor? Tell us about them at missruppenthal@gmail.com. Neighbors and “The State of Aloha,” written by Ben Lowenthal, alternate Fridays.

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