This is my sixth year partaking in June Dresses, and every year turns into a bigger movement; one that all started with a closet full of dresses.
I was inspired to take part in this fundraiser by one of my favourite teachers, Adrienne Donnelly.
She began June Dresses with this simple goal in mind: We believe empowering women is key to building a great community for all. It helps create stronger families and confident individuals, which will strengthen the lives of those around us. We chose the power of dresses to help show our belief in this statement.
I remember in my first year the only question I had been asked is “are you tired of wearing all those dresses yet?” And the truth? When doing my month of dresses, I had never wanted to throw on a pair of sweatpants more in my life.
The thing is, it isn’t the dress that gives me magical confidence… It’s the fact that I had been taking the time and effort into putting forward my best, happiest, most confident self, just by taking the extra minutes to throw on a simple sundress and do my hair.
If by just wearing a dress, I can inspire a woman to make a small change in the way they view themselves, both confidence-wise and happiness-wise, then I’m doing this for all the right reasons.
I hope that in doing this each year, it empowers the women around me to become influential, respectable members of society. It’s much bigger than a dress to me.
Mental Rescue Society
This year I am working for my third season in the Slave Lake forest area as a Wildfire Dispatcher, and in the fall, I begin the start of the long road of my psychology degree. In turn, I chose to fundraise for the Mental Rescue Society, which focuses not only on the importance of mental health and affordable counseling but the dire need to support first responders with PTSD.
Together through public campaigns, their goal is to increase awareness and support existing programs and services for all individuals and their families concerned with mental health.
Sacrificing for the Greater Good
Growing up in a first responder home, I spent my Saturdays at the fire hall. I’ve been inside more firehouses than I can count, playing around on equipment I probably shouldn’t have been on, hanging out with “the guys,” and even playing in the fire trucks. Most kids I knew growing up had dads that wore suits to work, whereas mine wore bunker gear and fire boots. However, when you run into burning buildings for a living, there are obvious dangers.
A lot of the time, people seem to forget that behind the men and women in masks and air tanks, there are families worried sick about them. As a fire family, we were expected to put our own wants and needs aside so that our Dad could be there for another family on potentially the worst day of their life. We learned at a young age about sacrificing for the greater good and I believe it helped to make my siblings’ and me become better people. We all have the desire to help others and have volunteered in many capacities to try to make our world a bit safer, brighter and better.
It takes a special kind of person willing to take on the challenge of responding to life-threatening emergencies. Having grown up in a volunteer fire family, I’ve experienced having to plan family outings around on-call weekends, functions we planned to attend being cancelled or delayed because the page has gone off, or the worry about the safety of my father when he was out protecting others.
I also discovered the amazing friends and brotherhood that you gain from being a part of a volunteer fire family. I know how important it is to raise funds for people like this, so other families like mine help support their first responder.
My dad taught me to be aware of the world younger than most because he saw things other people don’t see. He ran calls where some kids were playing with matches and people received third-degree burns. He’s seen the girl who slammed her car into a telephone pole because she was texting her friend instead of paying attention to the road. He sees these things and doesn’t want them to happen to my brothers or me.
We have been lucky; he has always made it home. Some families aren’t so lucky.
PTSD in the Community
Due to being raised in this environment, I’ve also seen the effects of PTSD in the community.
That’s what firefighters do; they try to save people from their worst nightmares and risk their lives doing so. If you ask me, that makes firefighting an admirable profession, but also a dangerous one.
The mental health of first responders is something I truly feel is not paid attention to enough or treated before its too late.
Momentum Walk-in Counselling
Momentum is a mental health triage centre, helping individuals who cannot pay for, or must wait for aid through the traditional healthcare system. They are a nonprofit, walk-in agency providing support and guidance to people in need of counselling services.
Momentum is staffed by a team of volunteer, registered health professionals who collaborate to provide clients solution-focused therapy.
My dad’s career inspired me to try to follow in his footsteps. I am half way through my third wildfire season with the Slave Lake forest area as a Wildfire Dispatcher, which I return to every year with so much joy. After my second season, I traveled to San Francisco to take the Emergency Fire Dispatch Certificate program, which I successfully passed with a 92%.
I then applied to serval jobs, passed a few screening processes and ultimately had some heartbreak with rejection calls. I think my age plays a factor in the hiring considerations for this important but often stressful work.
Rather than be discouraged by the process, I thought there may be a way that I could improve my skill set and learn more about things which could help me pursue a career that would help and assist first responders.
I have always had an interest in helping people on both practical and emotional levels.
I have participated in various girl empowerment workshops in my youth as both a participant and a facilitator. I have been a champion of the underdog my whole life whether it be standing up to a bully, helping welcome a new student, or defending someone who is being marginalized in some way.
I have a big heart and compassion for others. I believe that is largely due to the model my family has shown me in my Dad’s years of volunteer work in SAR and the fire service. It is woven into my DNA and I am not satisfied unless I am challenging myself to help others.
I have a thirst to learn new things and am proud to say I have been accepted to Grant MacEwan University for the Bachelor of Arts program. I plan to declare a major in Psychology as that seems to be a natural fit for both my empathic personality and my desire to help others. My hope is to pursue a career as a registered psychologist, and not only shine a light on the reality of PTSD in all first responders but to offer support for those injuries that are unseen by most.
This year I raised a grand total of $3,700, which is the most I have ever raised.
With most of my donations, I received a story from donors about why they felt inspired to donate. One of my donors (who anonymously gave $1,000) reached out to me and shared their life’s story. After losing their partner to cancer, and working so many years in the fire industry, the grief and PTSD had caught up.
This is a piece of their story that I would like to share:
Grief is both universal and unique. What has helped me may not be what somebody else finds useful. Struggling for some sense of control, early on I selected two strategies. One was to not hold back but let it all out; I would talk and write for hours. The other was to study grief, learn all I could about it. Studying grief, I developed what I called my grief library. I soon read several things that may seem obvious, but still surprised me: how big grief is, how unique to each person, how long it lasts. What else helped? Self-care, eating well, exercising, trying for normal sleep. Professional help, a counselor or psychologist. The simplest suggestion I found was, whatever feels good, and do that, for me that was time outdoors. What I call my baby therapy, hard not to feel better holding a baby. Helping others, volunteering, taking me outside myself.
You may not know who is grieving, or who might need a little more love or compassion. My word of advice? Treat everyone a little more kindly; give the support you would hope for on your worst day. Check on your strong friends, your quiet friends, your happy friends, and your creative friends.
Just check on each other and love each other.
I want to take a moment to say thank you to my donors, my friends, and family who support me every year and help get my posts out there, and to those who follow along. It makes each day of this month so exciting, and I look forward to more years to come.
– Cadence Mutch