Two years ago, Danville Police motor officer Jason Hoschouer was relaxing at the Scottish Games in Pleasanton with San Francisco Fire Department paramedic Justin Schorr. As the two enjoyed the festivities, Hoschouer extolled the virtues of his celebratory attire -- a kilt.
"We were wondering how we could get away with wearing kilts regularly," he joked.
Shortly thereafter, a paramedic emailed Hoschouer with information about prostate cancer awareness month. Often thought of as an "old man's disease," one in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime and one in 36 will succumb to the illness. Faced with these statistics, Hoschouer and Schorr decided to take to the streets during the month of September with their own awareness campaign.
"We started going to pints for prostates in Walnut Creek at Pyramid Alehouse and showed up in our kilts. We had survivor after survivor who said they had never seen this kind of awareness campaign," he said. "If I walk in to that alehouse wearing a kilt, everyone wonders what's under the kilt. And what's under the kilt is a risk for prostate cancer."
Kilted to Kick Cancer caught on rapidly from there and now has representatives in 32 states who are committed to wearing kilts throughout September. Last year, KKC raised $12,000 with the help of a Louisiana medic who wasn't satisfied with merely raising awareness; this year they hope to raise $50,000.
"When not in uniform, we wear kilts to raise awareness. If we walk into a room wearing pink shirts, everyone knows we support breast cancer awareness," Hoschouer said. "I go to church in my kilt, take my kids to school in my kilt."
Although it would be great to see many men in kilts, Hoschouer and Schorr hope their kilts encourage men to make an appointment to discuss risk factors or take a PSA test -- a blood test that detects elevated levels of hormones indicative of an enlarged prostate. These tests proved valuable for the 35-year-old founder of Blue Cure Foundation, who found out he had prostate cancer but had no family history or symptoms.
Hoschouer learned about Blue Cure through Twitter and said much of the nationwide movement has taken place through social media. Caleb Giddings, a professional shooter from Washington State, said that if his Twitter followers donated $5,000 to KKC, he would make his next shoot in a kilt.
"It's been crazy how much people have been coming out of the woodwork to give us a hand," Hoschouer said.
In addition to spreading the word online, Hoschouer and Schorr walk around Danville and San Francisco, hoping to spark conversation with curious onlookers.
"Ninety-nine percent of the attention we get is from women. But who's going to get their husbands, brothers and fathers to go to the doctor? It's women," Hoschouer added.
In addition to gathering sidelong stares, Hoschouer is selling Kilted to Kick Cancer polos and t-shirts. There will also be a fundraising to benefit KKC event at That Bar on Sept. 26; Hoschouer has kilts to lend for brave men.
"We're police officers and supposed to be brave. It's amazing how wussy some are about wearing a kilt," he added.
But Hoschouer isn't all talk and no action. Having just turned 40, he'll soon submit to a PSA test or be bent over a table like the man on his t-shirt.
"I'm big on walking the walk. It's kind of like enforcing the vehicle code, if I don't wear my seatbelt in my personal car or on patrol, then I'm a hypocrite and I don't want to be a hypocrite," he said.
Kilted to Kick Cancer has raised about $4,700 since the beginning of the month and since KKC is not a non-profit, funds raised will be funneled to the Blue Cure Foundation. After partnering with Livestrong and PC Awareness, Hoschouer was provided with links that can track how much money was raised through KKC awareness campaigns.
"It's not your grandfather's kilt anymore," Schorr said.