Firefighters growing 'staches, raising cash for Movember

·4 min read

She may not be able to grow a moustache but that won't stop Samantha Barnett from participating in Movember.

"I'm an an avid cyclist," said the Tiny Township firefighter, who also works at Waypoint. "I started biking earlier this year and grew a passion for it. I thought what a great way to incoporate my love for cycling and meet new challenges for myself and to bike to raise awareness."

The fundraiser, which has traditionally focused on raising funds for testicular and prostate cancer research, is now also incorporating mental health and suicide prevention awareness.

The firefighters at the North Simcoe municipality aim to raise $10,000 and have already raised $4,040 and is currently in fourth place in the Great Canadian Fire Challenge.

For the month of November, the firefighters will ask their supporters to pledge donations as they perform various health-related activities, such as running, jogging, working out, hiking, and, like Barnett, biking.

"My original goal is to bike 200 kilometres for November, so far I'm up to 44 kilometres," she said, adding she's trying to get out as many days as she can this month.

At first, Barnett said, her goal was to raise $400, while matching every $5 up to $200.

"I reached that goal within a couple days," she said. "I realized I'm making a difference and that people are listening. They know this is serious. I raised my goal to $1,000 and I'm currently sitting at $770. It's a good feeling when you know you're making a difference and people are listening to what you have to say and it's all for a good cause."

While in school, Barnett recalled, a couple guys in her social circle took their own lives.

"Seeing that growing up, has made a difference in my life," she added. "I just want to help people. That's why I love working at Waypoint. I have a drive to feel compassion and empathy for people. I just want people to know I always care. And it's not just he patients, it's my co-worker, and my friends and family members. I strive to make people noticed and cared for."

Awareness is key, said fellow firefighter, Kory Rowell.

"I just don't think there's enough awareness for these things," he said. "For men, we're taught to be tough and not to worry about our health. I think it's important to get this awareness and advertising out. We know our bodies really well. If we think something is up, we should be going to get tested and it's okay to do so."

Rowell said everybody knows someone who has lost a battle to cancer or their life with a mental health issue.

"Losing our grandfathers, fathers, brothers, sons, and friends too soon, is heartbreaking, but there is hope," he said. "These incidents can be greatly reduced with men getting checked out regularly for early signs of cancer. It's also important that we raise awareness that it's okay for men to seek help with mental health issues."

Some of us, said Rowell, especially men, can be very stubborn when it comes to health issues.

"The more we normalize and celebrate men seeking help on these issues, I think the more strength we will see in our family bonds. As a result, I think, our communities will become more resilient."

As a firefighter, said Rowell, the team is always encouraged to talk it out.

"We have been told right from the get-go that if there's ever an issue with a call, we can talk about it," he said. "We have debriefs as soon as we get back from calls. Veteran firefighters will be open to initiating the conversation. I've always felt supported with my mental health and anything that I'm going to see at a call."

Fire Chief Dave Flewelling concurred.

"It's extremely important.. No one should suffer in silence and know there are avenues for them to get help. We need to break the stigma around it," he said. "I have had firefighters reach out to me needing to process what they've been through."

Flewelling said he has never grown a moustache in his life, but is willing to give it a go for the cause and to give his colleagues a good laugh.

"I've never grown one before so we're about to see how that would turn out," he said, adding, "It's not just about growing a moustache. It's also about raising awareness about the importance of physical health."

Visit the Movember website, to learn more about the fundraiser and to donate to the Tiny firefighters' team.

Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,