The end of the year is a hairy time at the Rutland County Sheriff’s Department.
Deputies from the department, along with some officers from various small-town police forces, are participating in Beards for Kids, a fundraiser for Camp Ta-Kum-ta, in which officers donate money in exchange for being able to spend three months growing beards.
“Middlebury PD started this probably four years ago,” Lt. James Bennick said. “Last year was the first year that we jumped on board.”
Last year, Bennick said deputies who wanted to participate donated a minimum of $50 and the department raised a total of $1,500. This year, the goal is to raise $3,000. Toward that end, Bennick said he is soliciting donations from the community at large, and is enlisting other departments. He said the Pittsford Police Department is participating along with a handful of officers in other towns.
“I think there’s one from Castleton; maybe two from Fair Haven; one from Killington,” he said. “Next year, hopefully, it expands even more. ... We’ll just gradually increase our goals from here on out.”
Located in South Hero, Camp Ta-Kum-Ta serves children with cancer and their families. Dan Osman, the camp’s director of operations, said the majority of the camp is paid for through third-party fundraisers. He said efforts like Beards for Kids not only bring in money, they raise awareness of the camp’s year-round services.
Those include a trio of “winter weekends,” a Halloween event in the fall and a holiday event in December.
“We have playgroups as well throughout the year for ages 0 to 6,” he said. “Our newest program is our dads program that started two years ago. That’s been a real hit. We know cancer affects the entire family, so being able to help everyone in the family is really important.”
The Rutland County Sheriff’s Department — along with many other police departments — allows officers to wear mustaches, but not beards.
“If you look at police officers from the ‘70s and ‘80s, I think most were sporting a mustache,” Bennick said. “You don’t see a lot of bearded law enforcement officers. I think the trend is going the other way.”
Participating officers started growing beards Oct. 1, and get to keep them through Jan. 1. But Bennick said that doesn’t mean you’ll be seeing local police looking like mountain men.
“They have to keep the beards maintained and neat,” Bennick said. “The deputies have to be clean-shaven Jan. 1.”