By Alex Wilks/ Special to the Langley Advance Times
Most Vancouverites hike the Grouse Grind for a good workout, but Mark Butterworth wants to tackle the mountain trek for a good cause.
“One in five Canadians are touched by mental health. We need to show our support so that more people will talk about it,” he said.
The 28-year-old, on-call firefighter has worked for the Township of Langley fire department for two years and in that time, he has noticed the emotional weight that first responders can carry every day on the job.
“A lot of workers used to follow this old-school approach and not talk about it, however, I want to try and help shed some light on stigmas around mental health illnesses,” he said.
Butterworth is challenging himself to dress in 74 pounds of firefighter gear and hike up the grind on Sunday, Aug. 11.
He has his sights set on a fundraising goal of $2500, that will be given to the Langley Memorial Hospital Foundation for the local mental health unit. As of Thursday, he was already at the $2,000 mark, and expecting to exceed it.
“I will be wearing something called turnout gear,” he said. “It’s composed of three layers — the outer shell, moisture barrier, and thermal layer — and will include an air pack,” he said.
“It’s what we wear every day. It’s hot, keeping all the heat in and out. It’ll be quite difficult but a fun challenge that will get people talking.”
With an 853-metre elevation, taking the average hiker roughly 1.5 to two hours to complete, Butterworth has been actively training at the gym for weeks in preparation for the steep climb.
“I’m looking forward to just seeing all the smiles on the faces of the people who come out to do this with me… until they start going up, then that’ll change their mood,” he added with enthusiasm.
The Aldergrove resident noted that while the inspiration for the event, Hike the Grind came from his experiences as a first responder. Most people in their lives will suffer or know someone who suffers from anxiety, stress, or a more complex mental illness.
“If you take a step back you realize there are a lot of people out there that suffer in some form, they may even be people who you know or are close to,” he said.
“For me, it’s also [about] showing the support to the first responders who suffer from a lot of it as well.”
“Mental health is a prevailing factor in the daily lives of all first responders,” explained Nick Short, the co-director of the Township of Langley Firefighters Charitable Society.
“From our interactions with the public, our patients and our own members, first responders of all disciplines understand the impact that mental health has on our communities.”
The event will kick off from the main parking lot at the base of Grouse Mountain at 8 a.m.
Butterworth is expecting about 40 spectators, including some of his teammates from the hall and other members within the fire department.
“Our charitable society is looking forward to seeing Mark at the top of the mountain,” noted Short.
“It will be great to see him achieve his physical and fundraising goal after all the hard work and preparation he has put into making this event a success.”
When asked if the fundraiser will become an annual tradition, Butterworth said, “I kind of want to do this as a yearly thing to keep up with the challenge, keep the ball rolling, and keep people talking about it and raising funds.”
“Everyone has bad days and just being able to help and support as well as outreach people as much as I possibly can.”
Donations are being accepted leading up to the event through the GoFundMe page, Hike the grind! for mental health awareness.
“Langley is very fortunate to have a very dedicated and passionate group of first responders that live and work in this area,” said Short.
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