Paramedics adopt blue epaulettes for men’s health

Ken Kellar
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Paramedics in the area are running a month-long campaign to help give back to those in need in the district, and supporting another good cause while they’re at it.

The Rainy River District Association of Professional Paramedics (RRAPP) have started an epaulette campaign for the month of November, an effort they’ve linked to another long-running fundraiser that traditionally takes place in the same month, according to paramedic Zach Green.

“We are wearing blue epaulettes for Movember, which is just to support men’s health in general,” Green said.

“Each paramedic is purchasing the epaulettes, we order them ourselves and we’re each purchasing a set or two and a portion of the money goes towards the Northern Cancer Fund in Thunder Bay. Obviously the initial thing with Movember was prostate cancer, but it did kind of evolve into men’s health. So the money we’re going to be donating to the Northern Cancer Fund is going to go towards prostate cancer, but wearing the epaulettes in general is just to show support for men’s health, like post-traumatic stress and mental health issues.”

For the rest of November, paramedics who choose to participate in the campaign will sport pale blue epaulettes that feature a tiny moustache in order to help raise awareness around men’s health, both mental and physical. This isn’t the first time RRAPP members have sported special epaulettes in support of a cause either, with Green explaining the practice stretches back a number of years.

“I started here three years ago and even before I was here they were doing breast cancer epaulettes,” he said.

“I think they were donating the money to breast cancer awareness. A few years ago when I started, me and my colleague Malcolm Daly, we did decide to start ordering new epaulettes and donating the money to the Northern Cancer Fund in Thunder Bay, so we’ve done that since 2018. We’ve always had the epaulettes, we were just trying to figure out a way to make this more of an annual thing.”

Green said that the membership is now enthusiastic to take part in the epaulette campaigns, particularly as they now the money is staying relatively close to home.

“Everybody around our district that gets treated for cancer, they do go through the Northern Cancer Fund,” he said.

“So it’s nice to send the money somewhere that’s actually going to affect people around the district. We’re trying to keep it local because obviously we don’t have a cancer treatment centre in our district, given the size.”

While it takes a certain amount of planning to get a campaign like this organized, and the RRAPP are volunteers in the organization while also being working paramedics, Green noted that they’ve successfully raised money for a number of years at this point, having most recently donated around $300 to the Northern Cancer Fund in October as part of their pink epaulette campaign for breast cancer awareness month. The association also ran a poppy pin campaign in the lead up to Remembrance Day this year, and raised enough money through their sale to be able to donate more than $100 to each of the Legions in the district.

RRAPP members have also been taking part in a more traditional Movember campaign at the same time, with willing participants choosing to go all in and grow their moustaches out over the course of the month in order to raise money and awareness around that cause, though Green said the epaulette campaign is nice to run concurrently because it ensures donations stay fairly local.

“The last few years we’ve always done a moustache thing where the guys grow moustaches,” he said.

“It’s through the Movember organization and they have their online fundraiser. It’s nice to do that as well, but with the epaulettes at least people know a bit more where the money is going. With Movember they have a large organization and it does go towards mens health and supports all sorts of things, but it’s just nice to be able to do that and the epaulettes and help as much as we can. That’s the idea.”

Going forward, Green said that the membership plans to continue on with similar campaigns when they are able to and said that so far the blue epaulette campaign for this month has brought in roughly $300 that will go to the Northern Cancer fund at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, with a chance the donation could grow as more paramedics purchase their epaulettes. There’s also an opportunity for the public to help support the RRAPP’s Movember campaign this month by visiting their Facebook page.

“We’ll post about our Movember team as well that people can click on and go right to our team page and the public can donate through there,” Green said.

“For the epaulette campaign, it’s more a within the service thing, we haven’t figured out a way to do a proper fundraiser, but the online site is probably the best way for people who do want to donate towards men’s health.”