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Wright County News

Posted on: January 15, 2020

Sheriff's Office Presents Rivers of Hope $14,805 Raised From 2019's Beard Challenge

In November and December of 2019, Wright County Sheriff Sean Deringer ran a contest in his office – the Beard Challenge. It allowed deputies and sheriff’s office staff to grow beards, which they are forbidden to do ordinarily. The plan was to make it a fundraising event for Rivers of Hope, a non-profit organization based in Monticello that helps victims and families that have been impacted by family and domestic violence through its adult services, youth services and crisis/outreach services.

At a breakfast held at the Wright County Law Enforcement Center Tuesday, Jan. 14, Deringer presented Rivers of Hope with a check for $14,805 – all the money raised through the Beard Challenge.

Deringer was impressed with the turnout, that included numerous county employees and several invited guests from outside county government.

“The breakfast we had Tuesday was extremely well attended,” Deringer said. “We had four state representatives, two senators, three congresspeople represented by staffers, several principals and superintendents and a pretty good batch of business people. We were extremely well represented and, when I announced that number, there was a gasp that went through the entire crowd. It was pretty awesome.”

Being able to donate such a significant amount was gratifying for Deringer, who had come up with the idea a couple of years earlier, but hadn’t been able to implement it until last fall.

In 2017, Deringer approached then-Wright County Sheriff Joe Hagerty with his idea for the Beard Challenge, but Hagerty shot the idea down, citing that he didn’t think it was professional for officers to have beards and that the sheriff’s office has never allowed officers to wear beards. But, Deringer was undeterred.

He felt it would create camaraderie in the office among the employees and would be used as a fundraiser to give the proceeds to a worthy cause. He vowed to himself that, if he ever became sheriff, he would institute the Beard Challenge.

For employees who had been forbidden from growing beards, it became a daily competition to see the progress of hair growth, especially for those who have been around a while (including Deringer) and couldn’t remember the last time they had the chance to grow out a full beard.

“One of our patrol captains, Dan Anselment, has been with our office for almost 35 years and he’s never grown a beard for anything more than a week when he would go deer hunting,” Deringer said. “It was fun for some of the young guys, but I think us older guys had as much fun as anyone else did.”

Deringer turned the Beard Challenge into a competition to raise as much money as possible for Rivers of Hope. Initially, he was going to charge those taking part in the Beard Challenge $100 each, but changed the plan to have each participant secure donations to represent them. To incentivize to contest, he got a donation to provide gift cards for the best beard, the worst beard and the top four earners. The top individual raised $565.

There is talk of making the Beard Challenge an annual event because not only did it serve as a fundraiser that brought in more money than anyone imagined it could, but the ripple effect in the sheriff’s office has been everything Deringer had hoped for and more.

“It really created a lot of energy in our office,” Deringer said. “I’ve often said my job is to create an environment that gets people excited about coming to work. I think they’re starting to see that vision come through. There’s a lot of positive energy in my office right now.”

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