She wears her mustache as a proud sign of her mission to send kids to camp

Sunday News Correspondent
April 20. 2018 7:21PM
Trish Basiliere, right, proprietor at the 48 Main Café in Meredith shares a smile with Jessica Colgan-Snyder who is wearing a mustache for the entire month of April to fund scholarships to send kids to Camp Hawkeye this summer. (Bea Lewis/Union Leader Correspondent)

MOULTONBOROUGH - For one local camp director, the key to fundraising success was right under her nose.

Jessica Colgan-Synder is sporting a mustache, albeit a faux one, as a fundraising platform to send children to a special sleepaway summer camp.

Her husband, Garrett, founded Camp Hawkeye in 2005 to celebrate inclusivity and encourage children from around the world to make friends across cultures.

Up to 60 kids at a time - 250 over the course of the summer - from a variety of social, ethnic, economic, religious and geographic backgrounds use the joy and fun of camp to break down social and cultural prejudices, misconceptions and barriers.

Each summer, the camp and its scholarship fund provide an average of $75,000 in financial aid. Last year, they raised $85,000, helping 76 kids ages 7-17 come to camp.

"Kids deserve it. They don't have enough people advocating for them," she says.

"It's all about breaking down stigmas and building (friendships) through experience," she says.

About seven years ago, five men - and Jessica - decided to hold a mustache-growing competition with the goal of raising funds for Camp Hawkeye. Follically incapable, Jessica chose the artificial route, and often painting her moustache on or sporting a convincing theater prop.

And she stood out. People thought she was practicing for a play, or questioning her gender identity, or even belittling aging women.

"It's been an interesting social experiment," Colgan-Synder said. She says been shunned, had food thrown at her, and worse.

"I'm used to stares and whispers. I can handle it because at my core I know what I'm doing is for some really great kids."

It comes as no surprise that kids are most accepting. "Hey mom, that lady's got a mustache," is a common refrain.

While well intentioned mothers intervene and try to shush their child, the mustached lady invites the questions and interactions, using them as a platform to talk about Camp Hawkeye and its mission of diversity.

Colgan-Snyder recounts watching a young girl sitting at an evening campfire, transfixed by the fiery glow and the dancing shadows.

"It's beautiful isn't it," she said to the camper.

The girl replied that the only time she had ever seen a fire was when the tenement next door to where she lived burned.

Working with kids like that "helps you find gratitude in everything," Colgan-Synder said.

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