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Co-chairs of prostate cancer awareness walk aim to get more unions to step-up

Angela Gismondi
Co-chairs of prostate cancer awareness walk aim to get more unions to step-up

Organizers of a fundraising walk in support of prostate cancer awareness are encouraging more construction unions to join the charge and advocate for men’s health.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Walk-the-Path Walkathon to take steps for prostate cancer awareness.

The event raises funds for The Walnut Foundation, which has been providing men’s health advocacy, support and community education for 17 years. Held June 1, the walk is expected to raise the funds required to continue its work in raising awareness in the Black community about their elevated risk of prostate cancer.

Co-chairs for this year’s event, Ivan Dawns, International Union of Painters and Allied Trades business representative, and Sean Blake, representative with the Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario, are using their contacts to encourage other unions and their members to consider taking part and raising awareness for the cause.

“We definitely are reaching across to the other unions and some of them are seeing the value,” said Blake. “We’ll see what this year’s walk does as far as bringing more unions to the table but it’s definitely an area of focus.”

Other invited unions include iron workers, steel workers, drywaller partners within the Carpenters’ umbrella, mechanical workers and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

They are hoping they “see the value of early detection based on members being able to continue working and providing for their family, but also to lessen the strain on the benefits package because of early detection,” said Blake. “There’s definite value on both sides for the membership but also on the insurance side as well.”

“We’re trying to reach out to the building trades because the building trades are about 90 per cent men,” added Dawns.

Before aligning with the construction industry, The Walnut Foundation got their message out through the community and churches.

“Once they did outreach to the unions of course that’s where you’re going to capture a lot of men,” explained Blake.

“We were educated on where our Black community lands as far as detection and survival. We then expanded that. Obviously, we understand that the focus is within the Black community, but it’s men in general.”

The goal is two-fold: educate the community but also help the community get the early screening.

“We have a duty to our membership to say, ‘as we’re getting older we need to make sure that we look after our health,’” Blake stated.

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, one in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2024 and that Black men are 76 per cent more likely to be diagnosed and 2.2 times more likely to die from this disease than other ethnic groups. 

“What I’m hoping everyone takes away from the walk itself is just to be more proactive with their health,” said Dawns. “Men don’t want to go do their physical and the ones that do don’t want to do the prostate cancer test…get yourself checked, go see a doctor, do your annual physical, talk to your family doctor about prostate cancer.

“If it’s in your family that’s more reason to go get yourself checked out.”

Some men are embarrassed and others have a macho attitude, Dawns pointed out.

“If your prostate cancer is caught early you can live,” he stated. “A lot of men at the walk are prostate cancer survivors.”

The funds raised go to raising awareness through direct education, providing support to men newly diagnosed and are in treatment and advocating for improved access to free PSA testing, states the event website.

The foundation also works with hospitals, leaders and other organizations to influence policy and best practices around disease management for prostate cancer and other men’s health issues.

The walk will take place Saturday, June 1 from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Etobicoke Trail in Brampton, Ont. located at 30 Loafers Lake Lane (Sandalwood Parkway and Conestoga Drive).

Follow the author on X/Twitter @DCN_Angela.

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