#BootsOn in support of military and first responders

~ By Emily Innes


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Boot Campaign Canada, a registered non-profit organization, encourages Canadians to support our military and first responders by strapping on boots and “walking a mile” in their shoes.

The campaign sells military boots, along with other apparel, in order to raise funds for their programs that assist returning military and first responders who have suffered injuries, both mental and physical, in the line of duty.

“It is a fundraising and awareness initiative; it is two-fold,” said founding team member Jason Lowrie. “The biggest thing that we want to do is be patriotic and support our culture – supporting our military and our soldiers that are in our community like our first responders because everybody knows a firefighter, a paramedic, or a police officer.  In that way we are really banding together as a community. The other part is raising awareness for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) . . . These guys put their lifeon the line everyday but they also put their bodies on the line everyday.”

How Boot Campaign began

The Boot Campaign originated in the United States in 2009 when a group of five women from Texas – The Boot Girls – were inspired to give back to the military after reading Marcus Luttrell’s book, The Lone Survivor. Luttrell is a retired U.S. Navy SEAL who fought in Afghanistan and was the only member of his platoon to return home in 2007. Though he also founded his own charity in 2010, the Lone Survivor Foundation, the American counterpart statesthat he has been a strong supporter of the Boot Campaign’s efforts.

Bootcampaign.org answers the question of “Why Boots?” by stating that “combat boots are standard in the armed forces community; they’re a recognized marker of military service around the world. Pair them with a suit or a skirt or a cocktail dress, and the contrast in fashion is an instant attention-getter.”

The American project gained the attention of Fredericton, NB-native Scott Roach, who served for four years in the Canadian military. Roach, with the support of the American campaign organizers, brought the charity to Canada and he now sits on the Board of Directors. Boot Campaign Canada (BCC) is separate from the U.S. project, and all the funds go towards Canadian military and first responders, said Lowrie.

Boot Campaign Canada runs its own programming

As a registered Canadian charity, Boot Campaign Canada channels all of their profits into their own assistance initiatives. For their #SickNotWeak alternative therapies program, BCCworks with Can Praxis, an equine PTSD therapy program located in Calgary. They have sent six RCMP officers and their spouses to Can Praxis to assist them with conflict resolution while working with horses.

BCC is also developing a therapy program that uses Warrior Yoga, which is a form of meditation based on the principles and concepts of martial arts. Lowrie notedthat moving forward they also hope to work with Paws Fur Thought, based in Nova Scotia, in the near future to get service dogs for first responders and returning military in need.. “That is the three-pronged approach for our mental health (assistance programs),” Lowrie said.

For their #StillStanding program, the charity works with the Royal Canadian Legion’s Ontario Command to donate military boots to “military in transition” – veterans living in transition. “It was great. We took about 20 boots to Toronto during the wintertime,” said Lowrie. “They were so just welcoming and loving the fact that we were giving them boots. Some of (the boots) were CSA (safety standard) approved so that helps with them getting (certain) jobs.”

Focus on treating PTSD

The organization focuses on the mental health needs of first responders and veteransbecause of troubling statistics that show the dangers those in their line of work face everyday. Since 2002, more than 170 members of the Canadian Armed Forces, both regular and reserves, have committed suicide and more than 770 were wounded or killed in action. Since 2006, more than 30 RCMP officers have committed suicide. Since April 2014, 45 first responders have committed suicide and almost one in four first responders develops symptoms of PTSD.

BCC raises donations in a few different ways. They host events, such as a comedy show, in partnership with Forces Comedy Tour. They also receive corporate donations and support.

“We will be working with Via Rail in July,” said Lowrie. “Their CEOs and some of their executives have been buying boots. Basically, (the event) is called “Boots in Suits” and what they do is they take a picture of them in their atmosphere of where they work and it shows their support for our Canadian military and first responders.”

The other method is through the sale of boots and other apparel to the public. The boots come in first responder black and military tan and cost between $120 and $170. The boots, T-shirts, and hats can be purchased online at www.bootcampaignstore.ca.

“There are a lot of charities out there where people are constantly asked for money and yes they get a donation receipt and the good feeling of donating to a charity. But this actually allows you to make a statement and you are getting something for your money,” Lowrie said. The campaign originated with the concept of providing Canadians with a tangible way to show their support for our country’s heroes.

The boots are purchased from their supplier, Original S.W.A.T., who manufactures tactical boots for law enforcement, military, and EMT. “100% of the net proceeds from the sale of the boots goes right into our programs,” he added.

High profile Canadians ‘Get Their Boots On’

While the organization is still young, according to Lowrie they have already raised $20,000 since 2013. BCC has also received a lot of attention from celebrities. Toronto Blue Jays star Jose Bautista has put on the military boots to show his support, along with Mike Holmes from the Canadian TV series Holmes on Homes; federal MP and Justice Minister Peter MacKay; Jim Treliving from the TV show Dragons’ Den; Calgary Flames players Sean Monahan, Joe Colborne and Johnny Gaudreau, and many more.

“Part of the awareness comes from getting high profile Canadians to pose in boots to show their support,” said Lowrie. As the campaign’s Development Coordinator, it is part of his job to attract this positive attention. Currently, the campaign is entirely driven by a handful of volunteers including Lowrie and his wife Amaranth, the campaign’s Director of Operations, and photographers Julie Bernard and Ron Robertson.

To learn more about the campaign and find out how you can ‘Get YOUR Boots On’, please visit their website at www.bootcampaignstore.ca.