As part of her fundraising for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) “Man and Woman of the Year” contest, Brianna Haag and some friends put together a “Mr. Marina” contest. “It was such a great experience, we made it an annual thing,” Haag explains. In just three years, the event has raised $335,000 for blood cancer research and patient services. Haag’s father was diagnosed in 2008 with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, the most common type of adult leukemia. “My dad went through chemotherapy twice, and he’s doing well,” she says. Last year’s event attracted 1,200 spectators and raised $155,000.
Between 70 and 80 men are nominated, but only the most dedicated make it through. “A lot of people when they hear about the large fundraising aspect realize it’s not for them. It’s a unique person who wants to do that,” Haag says. The other components are swimsuit, best Marina attire, and talent. We recently checked in with three of this year’s contenders to see what motivated them to compete, and to find out why they should be crowned Mr. Marina 2015.
Zachary Sean Donohue/police officer, restaurant investor
Michael Thomas/keeping track of Google’s money
Justin Waterman/manager, sales operations
WHY YOU SHOULD WIN
Donohue: I intend to be one of the top fundraisers in the contest and sell the most tickets to the actual Mr. Marina event. I think I’ll get some, “Did he really do that?” moments on stage during my Mr. Marina performance.
Thomas: My passion for LLS combined with some very entertaining stage performances and ambitious fundraising efforts [are why I should win].
Waterman: I am intent on raising the most funds for LLS. That combined with impeccable Marina style and stellar performances at the event should win your hearts and votes.
HOW PEOPLE CAN HELP
Donohue: Donate any amount at mrmarina.com/zacsean, and purchase tickets under my name.
Thomas: Get involved and spread the word — awareness is the first step. Donate through my campaign at mrmarina.com/michaelthomas to support critical blood cancer research and improve patient care. This is about more than just curing the disease; it’s also about ensuring those who have it live comfortably during treatment.
Waterman: Buy a ticket and come to the event — it’s a fun time and is sure to impress with this year’s talent. You can make a donation on my behalf at mrmarina.com/justinwaterman.
HOW AND WHY DID YOU GET INVOLVED?
Donohue: My great friends, Cameron Crockett and Ryan Wager, were two of the top three fundraisers last year. I helped out both and had a lot of fun going to their events. Cameron nominated me this year. A good family friend recently passed away from a long fight with stomach cancer, and right now, a fellow police officer has throat cancer, so I’m happy to campaign in her name.
Thomas: A friend who participated in last year’s competition nominated me. At first, I thought it was essentially a male beauty pageant, so I wasn’t extremely interested. As soon as I read about the amount of money it has raised for LLS, my interest was piqued. Several of my aunts and uncles have had blood cancer or are currently suffering from it, and my mom was diagnosed with lymphoma nine years ago. Luckily, my mom is a survivor, but someone dies about every 10 minutes from blood disease. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my time and energy than to give back to a community that is such a large part of my life.
Waterman: One of my best friends was diagnosed with leukemia as a young child and nominated me. I wanted to honor her story and everyone else who has been touched by this disease.
MY SWIMSUIT WILL BE …
Donohue: I’m torn between the traditional Kazakhstani neon yellow “V” that Sacha Baron Cohen eloquently wore in his movie Borat, an American flag-themed Speedo, or what Channing Tatum wore in Magic Mike.
Thomas: Based on how much weekend pizza and fro-yo I eat over the next few weeks — think somewhere between “James Bond Euro” and “Charlie Chaplin full body retro.”
Waterman: Chubbies swim trunks — radical shorts that are the epitome of the Marina bro uniform, and also, fittingly, a sponsor.
MY BEST MARINA ATTIRE WILL BE …
Donohue: I’m leaning toward a pastel tuxedo that shows an even mixture of class and goofiness.
Thomas: I’ll probably just go into my closet and dress as if it were a Friday at Brixton, likely involving multiple colors and layers. However, if you’re a brand and interested in sponsoring my campaign, please reach out, and I’d be more than happy to chat.
Waterman: Congenial southern frat bro mixed with the “I’m on a yacht” look.
MY TALENT WILL BE …
Donohue: My performance is something that must achieve that “wow” factor for the audience, so that I’ll keep to myself.
Thomas: I’m still trying to figure out if I have any, but I’m debating between a circus trapeze act, donut eating, and a repeat of the Justin Timberlake/Janet Jackson 2004 Super Bowl halftime performance.
Waterman: I’m going to channel my inner David Copperfield by sawing a lovely lady in half!
WHAT QUALITIES SHOULD MR. MARINA POSSESS?
Donohue: Mr. Marina should possess as much humor, sass, and self-deprecation as possible. Mr. Marina should be comfortable in his own skin and not care if he is judged for wearing his boat shoes and Chubbies shorts in the middle of winter. Mr. Marina never cares if the tight-pants-wearing hipsters in the Mission mock his demeanor or attire. Mr. Marina loves his late nights at Chestnut Street’s Horseshoe hearing stories of legends that came before him in the most laid-back district in the city.
Thomas: Mr. Marina should first be someone whose life has been affected by blood cancer who is an advocate for the cause. He should be a strong presence in the community: well networked, a leader, influential, and with a passion to inspire. He should embody the characteristics of a modern day gentleman: polished, respectful, hard working, but also sociable and fun to be around. Most important, he should be part of something larger than himself and give back to his community, which helps shape the lifeblood of our amazing city.
Waterman: The three “Ps”: professional, personable, and philanthropic [are qualities Mr. Marina should possess.]
I SHOULD BE MR. MARINA BECAUSE …
Donohue: I realize how cruel cancer can be, and don’t mind making fun of myself if it helps raise money and awareness for the cause.
Thomas: While I’m certainly not the Superman described above, I am continually striving to be. Perhaps that should also be on the list of qualities — the constant journey of self-improvement. I realize that I’ll never be perfect in all these qualities, but that won’t stop me from trying. And I’m going to raise a hell of a lot of money to help end blood cancer as well!
Waterman: I am your All-American Marina neighbor putting God, country, tank tops, and Calvin Harris above all else. But seriously, I intend to win your hearts and votes by saving lives and putting on stellar shows up to and including the event. Plus, I will adopt a homeless puppy if I win. (Editor’s note: I will hold Justin to that puppy promise.)
Mr. Marina 2015: Wednesday, March 18, 7–11 p.m., Regency Ballroom, 1300 Van Ness Avenue, $40–$55, mrmarina.com.