Inside the Chrysler assembly plant, a wall is lined with 134 plaques bearing the name of an employee who passed away before retirement.
"We also have a wall for our retirees," said Wayne North, union lead at the plant, "but not everybody makes that wall."
The issue of men's health hits home for North in a number of ways. Aside from the "scares" his brother-in-law has had with prostate cancer, North spends his days working in a factory of 3,000 people, average age 47. According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, one in 38 men are diagnosed with the disease between the ages of 40 and 59 , and North says it's not uncommon to encounter co-workers going through scares of their own.
North himself was "stubborn" about getting tested before he got involved with the Movember campaign five years ago. Now he spends the month encouraging his co-workers to get a checkup as part of captaining the Chrysler Brampton Assembly Plant's Movember team. As with many men around the world, he'll be growing a mustache in November as part of the campaign to promote men's health issues.
Last year, he and his co-workers raised $7,500, finishing third in the Great Canadian Auto Challenge, a network of 2,292 participants spanning every brand, dealership, manufacturing plant and service centre in Canada's automotive industry.
Canada has been a major contributor to the international Movember fundraising campaign since its launch here in 2007, finishing top among all countries the past three years (excluding funds matched by other governments). Movember Canada raised a combined total of $33.9-million in the 2013 campaign..
"The Great Canadian Auto Challenge officially started last year, and it was a result of seeing so many companies reaching out to us, so much enthusiasm within that industry, and a few leaders … wanting to showcase the greater industry's effort through a challenge," said Jeff Lohnes, business engagement manager of Movember Canada.
In its first year competing, the auto sector finished third behind the oil and gas industry and the financial services community by raising $401,022.
"It's just a hyper-competitive environment, and I think Movember likes to see the hyper-competitiveness put toward a good cause such as prostate cancer awareness," said Steve Kisic, an after-sales operations co-ordinator for Mercedes Benz Canada, and captain of the "Mo'cedes Benz Canada" team. Kisic led his dealership to victory last year by raising $15,000, which was matched by Mercedes Benz Canada. Honda workers at dealerships and plants raised close to $14,000.
"Movember made a trophy for the automotive competition, which we have right now in our trophy case, and we really want to keep it this year," Kisic said. "There are a few members of our team who have been affected one way or another – maybe their father or brother or husband – and they really spearheaded the competition."
The Brampton Assembly Plant has set an optimistic goal of $10,000 this year.
"Our workplace is a team-based manufacturing system, so any kind of team activities are always good help with that," North said. "It can get monotonous in an assembly plant, doing the same job every 40 seconds; so, when you get something else that you can work on or be proud of … it makes your day go by better, gets us more involved with other people, opens up communication and improves morale over all."
Although eager to lead the Chrysler team past rival Honda's fundraising effort, North says that spreading awareness is the primary motivation for participating in the Movember campaign. The "itchy" mustache provides the perfect way to start a conversation about a subject most would rather avoid.
"The money is one thing, but getting people involved helps a lot more than that, because as you're talking to other people and spreading the word, it makes people aware that it's a bigger problem than they think," he said. "Get out there, get checked out, because you never know. If you catch things early something can be done about it, but if not you'll just be a plaque on the wall."
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