Sheffield United backing ‘Decembeard’ to raise bowel cancer awareness

Sheffield United goalkeeper Mark Howard is backing Beating Bowel Cancer's Decembeard campaign
Sheffield United goalkeeper Mark Howard is backing Beating Bowel Cancer's Decembeard campaign
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Sheffield United are going grizzly this month and growing beards in aid of beating bowel cancer.

‘Decembeard’ aims to raise money an awareness of bowel cancer, which is the UK’s second biggest cancer killer, with over a hundred people being diagnosed every day.

Mark Todd, Sheffield United's Head of Community

Mark Todd, Sheffield United's Head of Community

Yet over 90 per cent of cases can be treated successfully if caught early. Beating Bowel Cancer is the support and campaigning charity for everyone affected by bowel cancer.

United keeper Mark Howard said: “All you have to do is ditch your razor and get sponsored to grow a beard – or in my case, grow it longer!

“Its that simple – no mountains to climb, no bath of beans to sit in or rivers to swim. It’s a piece of cake, and your boss or partner can’t complain as it’s for a good cause.

“Unfortunately people often get embarrassed discussing bowels and poo so bowel cancer and its symptoms are less well known than many other cancers and this can cost lives.

W”e want to change that. This campaign will get people talking about bowel cancer and will help raise awareness of the symptoms. This can lead to earlier diagnosis, which gives patients a better chance of survival.

“Beating Bowel Cancer is looking for 2,500 men throughout the UK to sign up to grow a beard and raise £100 each in sponsorship to help fund the charities work supporting people with bowel cancer and their families and raising awareness of the disease, its symptoms and the need for early diagnosis.

“So if there are any local guys out there who are happy to channel their inner David Beckham or Brian Blessed and go hairy for Decembeard, please sign up at today!”

Head of Sheffield United Community Foundation, Mark Todd, has signed up for the campaign because his mum, May Todd, was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 1996 and had a very tough time with the disease for many years before dying of a heart attack in 2003.

Mark said: “Mum had a horrible time with bowel cancer but was a fighter to the end. She lived in Monkstown near Belfast and was well known and well-loved in the area.

“She always thought of others and looked after two elderly frail women right up to the end of her own life. When she died the whole community came out to see her and the coffin was carried past the two old women’s houses so they could see her before driving to the church.

“Because of what mum went through with bowel cancer, I really want to support Beating Bowel Cancer and raise awareness of the disease in the Sheffield area.

“Decembeard is a fun way to raise funds for the charity and get people talking about bowel cancer and making them more aware of the symptoms. I’ve already got some other Sheffield United staff and players interested and will keep working on the others!”

Mark grew up in Belfast and left in 1984 for play professional football for 12 years. He was a young professional at Manchester United before moving to Sheffield United in 1987 before going on to play for other clubs.

When his playing career ended in 1996 due to tendonitis, he returned to Sheffield United head of Sheffield United Community Foundation in 2008. The Foundation is a charity working in the areas of sport participation, education, health and social inclusion.

Paula Guanaria, Senior Community Fundraiser for Beating Bowel Cancer in the North, said: “One in four people are touched by bowel cancer in some way, either directly or through a family member or friend. It’s a very treatable condition if caught early, so we hope Decembeard will make people more aware of the symptoms and encourage them to get checked out if necessary.

“We’re incredibly grateful to Mark for signing up to Decembeard. Such support is vital to the work that we do. We hope others in the Sheffield area will support him or sign up to grow a beard themselves to help raise awareness of bowel cancer and help us support more patients and families affected by the condition.”

You can support Mark’s fundraising activities at

You can check out Decembeard and sign up yourself at