BY HAILEY MONTGOMERY
Sheridan College students are snapping, posting, and sharing their efforts to raise funds and awareness for Canada’s veterans.
Throughout November, the Sheridan Student Union is teaming up with military veteran mental health focused charity Wounded Warriors Canada and asking students to participate in the 22 Push Up Challenge.
Participants are asked to take photos or record video of themselves completing 22 pushups a day for 22 days. Once the challenge is complete, they are encouraged to make a donation of $22 to the charity.
The “22” comes from a disturbing statistic: In 2012, the U.S. Veterans Affairs department reported that 22 veterans had committed suicide each day.
Wounded Warriors executive director Scott Maxwell says that the 22 Push Challenge is helping to raise funds in order to “bridge gaps” in services for Canada’s veterans, as they return home from combat and battle mental illness and homelessness.
“We have thousands of ill and injured Canadian Armed Forces members, veterans, first responders, and their families, suffering at home, and living with operational stress injuries and these invisible injuries like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),” Maxwell said.
Maxwell emphasizes that the money students raise will go directly to “bridge gaps” in service for veterans who have been medically released from combat, and are now struggling to return to their former lives.
Everyday approximately 22 veterans take their lives due to PTSD and other mental illnesses. My goal is to spread awareness surrounding such a powerful statistic. As students we don't really have a lot of money to make donations for causes that we want to be apart of. But we can use a bit of our time and social media to spread our cause with hashtags! Use the hashtag #22pushups & #sheridanlife @amelia_tessa
Amelia Sher, Sheridan Student Union’s Trafalgar Campus awareness co-ordinator, says that Sheridan students are being called to action online to start a conversation about Canada’s military veterans.
“We […] don’t always have a lot of money to donate to things we are passionate about, but we are very tech savvy and can use the power of a small amount of time and social media to spread awareness, “she said. “Our veterans support us in so many ways, and they need our support too.”
Maxwell says that the donation is reasonable for a student budget, but believes that awareness online can also directly result in fundraising.
“[Students] can do their part by doing the challenge and sharing throughout their networks, in hopes that people downstream will take notice and give,” he said.
Canadian Army veteran and National Partnership Director or Wounded Warriors, David Macdonald, says that college and university students have various options to help their military.
“Besides donating to a cause, I would encourage students to seek volunteer opportunities within their cause or seek to raise awareness for their cause through events, engaging their student council and using social media,” Macdonald said.
He also emphasized that the “friendly competition” component of the challenge contributes to it’s success.
“Much like other past viral campaigns like the ALS Challenge, we want you to challenge your friends, family and even your professors to the challenge.
In his Wounded Warriors biography page Macdonald explains that he was seriously injured in 2009 while serving in Afghanistan. after returning to Canada, he became depressed, and later suicidal. He decided to advocate for the wellbeing of current and veteran members of the Canadian Armed Forces. He says that there is more work to be done to connect young people with veterans of all ages.
“There is a large population of younger veterans, many of whom may be attending school beside you,” he said. “Seek opportunities to open areas of communication surrounding mental illness. We are very quickly losing our World War II veterans, and with the their stories. I am sure they would like to share their stories with a younger generation.”
Second-year Bachelor of Film and Television student Julia Bertola has been sharing her push-ups on Facebook, and believes all Sheridan students are up to the challenge.
“I don’t have the strongest arms, but that’s what makes this a great challenge,” Bertola said. “It’s really just about the intention behind the exercise. All college students can do it, and challenge their peers.”
“Wounded Warriors Canada is a national charity supporting Canada’s ill and injured Canadian Armed Forces members, Veterans, First Responders and their families. For more information visit: www.woundedwarriors.ca”