Whether making Movember a ‘fun’ charity event or not is the reason, no one can deny that the Southern Georgian Bay Firefighters team is more than a hair’s length away from its friendly competitors.
As a kickoff to the month, the annual Movember campaign for men’s cancer awareness and mental health was addressed during the recent Tiny Township council meeting. Mayor Dave Evans showed off his own facial growth on the first day of the campaign to the laughter of attendees in the council chamber.
“The Southern Georgian Bay firefighters, which we’re a proud member of, last year raised $69,775,” said Evans. “So we are making a concerted effort to exceed that.”
Coun. Stephen Walma, also a professional firefighter, added to Evans comment: “We were the top raising fire department in the world. Like… the world. That’s huge. And Toronto didn’t take too kindly to being second.”
The Movember campaign is a fundraising event held each November to raise awareness and support towards prostate cancer, testicular cancer, men’s mental health, and suicide prevention.
The charity initiative involves the growth of moustaches and use of temporary moustache tattoos as a visual mark, and includes donation drives and inspiring motivational activities like running as a means to show support from everyone involved.
Led by Tiny Township volunteer firefighter and team captain Samantha Barnett, the SGB Firefighters team have been involved for four years as of the 2023 campaign. In 2022, the team beat Toronto Firefighters L3888 who raised just under $25,000 in their efforts.
Many members of Tiny council, staff, and its firefighters have personal pages on the main SGB Firefighters team Movember site, including Deputy Mayor Sean Miskimins. At the recent meeting, he reiterated a lighthearted contest as his way to raise money.
“I’m putting a challenge out there… a ‘save it or shave it’ event,” said Miskimins, holding his long hair from his shoulders. “Whichever link raises the most money… will determine what happens to these luscious locks of mine. You can choose to save it (through one link) and I’ll continue to let it grow for yet another year – well, the parts of it that will still grow – or we’ll shave it right down to the wood.”
Following laughter from attendees, Evans quipped: “Hopefully the second option works.”
The comical jabs allowed Walma to segue into why the campaign was important, with a possible reason for the team’s global success.
“One of the things that I really like about this charity in particular is that it makes it fun,” Walma stated.
“It’s a month long, and if you look at it like you’re out fundraising all the time, it can be depressing. But you literally have people like the deputy mayor that are making this something you can laugh at, which is huge considering Movember – one of their key priorities is looking at mental health," Walma said.
“If you’re having fun, you’re looking after your mental health. That’s a huge component for me, especially from the firefighter perspective,” added Walma. “We don’t talk about it as men as much as we should; younger men don’t always go to the doctors as much as they should – make it a habit, just do it.”
As the first day of the initiative, council members announced that over $13,000 had been donated including over $10,000 raised from a Tiny versus Midland volunteer firefighters golf tournament, as well as $500 as a match by Walma for resident attendance to the township’s recent town hall meeting.
Additionally, a vehicle wrap of fire truck Pump 6 was donated by regional business Eminent Custom Graphics Inc., outfitting the truck in black with a Movember logo and qr code to the campaign.
Fire chief Dave Flewelling made further reference to the global challenge, and Tiny’s leadership as it related to Toronto as well as any other team involved.
“Who wants to take the bragging rights away from us?” said Flewelling. “Go ahead, try. They (Toronto) don’t like being second, but we’re No. 1 right now.”
Flewelling added: “If it sparks some healthy competition, all the best – charity’s the winner.”
Archives of council meetings are available to view on Tiny Township’s YouTube channel.Editor's note: This story was first published on November 2. This version corrects the donation information.
Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, MidlandToday.ca