When Dave Kirkendol's dog, Rico, was diagnosed with cancer, his sole wish was to save his beloved pet.

Kirkendol immediately took Rico to UT's Small Animal Oncology Clinic, but the disease was already too pervasive. Rico eventually lost his battle, but Kirkendol has managed to keep his spirit alive by starting a competition that would assist other pets facing cancer. Thus, Rico Stache Bash was born.

Since 2006, this mustache and beard competition has been donating proceeds to the UT Small Animal Oncology Department – Kirkendol's way of thanking the department for its care of Rico.

In the past two years, approximately $8,000 has been donated to the Small Animal Oncology Department through Kirkendol's charity. The money, collected from sponsors and contestants, funds a variety of measures, ranging from state of the art equipment to funds for research projects, both of which can ultimately save a pet's life.

A silent auction is also held, with the funds raised to benefit the veterinary clinic.

The first Rico Stache Bash, however, was not premeditated.

"The first one was thrown together very quickly, but had great success," Rebecca Tillery, co-director of Rico Stache Bash, said. "Since there was a wonderful response we decided to do the event again the next."

Rico Stache Bash is comprised of seven categories, all featuring facial hair. Winners will be chosen from: Best Overall, Best Mustache, Best Beard, Best Super Villain, Most Creative, Welcome to Puberty and Best Female.

Olya Smrkovski, assistant professor of oncology at the Department of Small Animals Clinical Sciences, is also a judge for Rico Stache Bash.

"The atmosphere is very fun," Smrkovski said. "People come out to vote, hang out and have a good time. There is a very competitive spirit among the contestants."

Last year, the competition had almost 100 competitors. The contestants receive a number, then their picture is streamed via slideshow to give the audience and judges a closer look. Smrkovski said contestants are rated on the style and creativity of their beards and mustaches.

They contestants take the competition seriously, and many begin growing their "staches" months in advance, Smrkovski said.

"Many of our contestants are repeat winners and try to keep their titles," Tillery added.

In addition to the beard and mustache competition, musical act Brendon James Wright and the Wrongs will perform.

Rico Stache Bash will be held March 15 at Barley's Taproom and Pizzeria in Old City. Registration is from 8:30-9:30 p.m. The entry fee is $5. The official event will begin at 8:30 p.m.