Graphic by Sybil Simpson

Despite the pandemic limiting in-person interaction, various McMaster sports teams have found ways to instill community while growing their month-long moustache.

Ever since its founding in 2003, the Movember campaign has funded more than 1250 men’s health initiatives with twenty countries participating. Since its origin in Australia, over 6 million individuals have cumulatively participated in the campaign, raising $1.13 billion since its inception. Within the last year, $20.8 million was raised in Canada, where 66.5% was allocated for men’s health projects. 

Movember was brought to life by two Australian men, Travis Garone and Luke Slattery, who wanted to raise awareness regarding four main areas of men’s health: mental health, physical activity, testicular cancer and prostate cancer.

From raising $0 in their founding year, they were able to fundraise $50,468 the following year, while increasing their participants 16-fold from 30 to 480. The aim of the campaign is to reduce premature death of men by 25 percent by 2030. In fact, males comprise 75 percent of all suicides, with one man dying by it every minute. 

 

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For the past six years, McMaster men’s rugby athletes have participated in the initiative. This year, Max Pinkerton, a fifth-year player taking a senior role on the team, expanded the initiative to encompass all Marauder athletes. 

“We reached out to our friends who are on other sports teams and decided to bear this initiative. Fortunately, we grew to seven teams this year . . . We see that no sports are going to be played this year so we figured that why not expand Movember so everyone can partake in it and I think that’s something teams took pretty well,” said Pinkerton. 

“We reached out to our friends who are on other sports teams and decided to bear this initiative. Fortunately, we grew to seven teams this year . . . We see that no sports are going to be played this year so we figured that why not expand Movember so everyone can partake in it and I think that’s something teams took pretty well,” said Pinkerton. 

This year was quite different during the campaign as many of the typical events had to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Typically, we’re more hands-on with gathering sponsorships, donations and hosting events,” said Pinkerton.

As the pandemic has taken a toll on many individuals’ mental health, the rugby team did a modified team photoshoot with a collage. They also created a bottle drive, both with the goal to instil a sense of community amongst the team.

They also partnered with the Movember organization to create an online trivia night, where family and friends joined in on the fundraising campaign. Athletes have also done personal challenges where they would interact with the community on their route. 

“It’s definitely interesting to create a sense of community while being virtual, you kind of take granted the face to face moments,” said Pinkerton.

At the end of the month, the rugby team was able to raise just over $8,900, beating their goal of $7,500.

Among the seven teams, the men’s baseball team and volleyball teams also participated in this year’s campaign. Bennett Swan, a fourth-year player on the volleyball team, led his team’s campaign, raising a collective total of over $12,000, surpassing their initial goal by $5,000. For Swan, Movember has a personal connection to him, after losing his dad in the eighth grade to cancer. 

“It took a lot of courage and taking that first step for checking my mental health and testicular cancer, something men may find awkward to do. But it is essential to do. It’s really easy to fall into the trap of Movember for not shaving, but if you peel back the layers and see the deep meaning behind wanting to see men live longer,” said Swan.

Swan further emphasized the importance of admitting to oneself they need help and continues to advocate for loved ones checking-in on themselves, such as speaking with a counsellor. 

“It took a lot of courage and taking that first step for checking my mental health and testicular cancer, something men may find awkward to do. But it is essential to do. It’s really easy to fall into the trap of Movember for not shaving, but if you peel back the layers and see the deep meaning behind wanting to see men live longer,” said Swan.

 

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For Julian Tymochko and Kenny Noguchi, fourth- and sixth-year players on the baseball team, this was their first year participating in the Movember campaign. They successfully raised over $4,500, surpassing their goal of $2,000. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the team decided to ramp up their social media presence. 

“We did a round-robin tournament for best moustache. That was one way we got people involved. We got quite a few donations from that so it’s been quite effective,” said Noguchi. 

“We did a round-robin tournament for best moustache. That was one way we got people involved. We got quite a few donations from that so it’s been quite effective,” said Noguchi. 

To raise awareness regarding mental health, Tymochko also did 10-kilometre runs to help clear his mind but wanted to expand to his entire team for future years.

“You see 20 big, burly guys running down the street and people will be asking what’s going on there? It’s just to bring more eyes and awareness,” said Tymochko. 

“You see 20 big, burly guys running down the street and people will be asking what’s going on there? It’s just to bring more eyes and awareness,” said Tymochko. 

For all the teams involved, raising awareness, in general, has been the predominant goal.

“We’re dropping interviews to help break down the barriers affecting the stigma of dealing with mental health and testicular cancer. Something I usually sign off with every November is “check your balls”. It feels a bit taboo, but the main thing about Movember is getting to know yourself, physical but also the mental health side of it as well,” said Pinkerton.

Pinkerton, Noguchi, Swan and Tymochko all emphasize the importance of reaching out for support and not fighting your battles yourself.

“We’re dropping interviews to help break down the barriers affecting the stigma of dealing with mental health and testicular cancer. Something I usually sign off with every November is “check your balls”. It feels a bit taboo, but the main thing about Movember is getting to know yourself, physical but also the mental health side of it as well,” said Pinkerton.

 

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