It may have started off as a joke, but the $8,400 that Bret Levy and James Medina raised for Lancaster County Food Hub off of a workplace bet will have positive implications for needy families in the area.
Now the two Lancaster General Hospital emergency room doctors are trying to reach $10,000 on their Facebook fundraiser.
Levy and Medina were stunned when they raised nearly four times their initial goal of $350 in just six hours — all for a cause that began as a gag to have Levy cut his beard into a distinctive “monkey tail” design if they surpassed their fundraising target.
“This thing just sort of exploded beyond our highest expectations, and then it just kept picking up steam from there,” said Medina, 47.
The fundraiser began when Medina learned of the unusual monkey tail look and found it amusing, sharing pictures of the distinctive beard style among hospital staff and joking that the bewhiskered Levy, a friend and fellow doctor at the hospital for nearly 20 years, should take on the appearance. A nurse showed Levy a picture of the beard and tried to convince him that it was a fashionable look, but the Manheim doctor turned down offers to shape his whiskers.
Co-workers continued to nudge Levy throughout the day, and he finally relented: He would sculpt his beard into the style if they could raise money for a charitable cause.
Initially thinking the effort would be a small effort that would lift spirits at the hospital amid the COVID-19 pandemic while giving some money to a local charity, the two doctors were instead shocked when they wound up raising more than $6,500 in just three days.
Levy quickly accepted his facial fate.
“At that point there was no turning back,” he said. “I had to go through with it.”
The 51-year-old Levy said the outlandish beard doesn’t look quite as absurd as the “train wreck” he initially feared. In fact, the now-monkey-tailed doctor doesn’t have a problem with his new look.
“I’m not on the dating scene anymore,” he said.
“Self-deprecation and self-deprecating humor is the best approach to take a lot of things. This kind of went hand-in-hand with that.”
Even so, the peculiarly shaven doctor said he’ll be glad when his regular beard grows back.
“I think I was willing to take some ribbing for a week or so, but after that I want to go back to my usual state of flying underneath the radar,” Levy said.
Levy said he’ll consider shaving his head clean if the fundraiser can reach $10,000, but efforts to encourage him to take on a “monkey swirl” hairdo to match his facial hair are probably a step too far, he said.
“I don’t want people thinking that they’ve got a madman taking care of them in the ER,” he said.
All of the proceeds from the fundraiser will go directly to the Lancaster County Food Hub to be used in their efforts to feed and clothe local families, according to Alexandra Schramm, the organization’s interim executive director.
Lancaster County Food Hub, the largest free food pantry and clothier in Lancaster County, has needed some fun and levity after a long year dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, Schramm said.
Levy and Medina’s fundraiser is “bringing that in spades,” she said.
“We couldn’t be more grateful for their contribution to us,” Schramm said.
Levy said the fundraiser is a positive example of people across the community pitching in to take care of others.
“It’s a great lesson that you never know what will happen if you try to make up a little bit of a fundraiser,” he said. “It may turn into something substantially more.”