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80s Summer Camp GoFundMe for mental health


Keith Muise has started a GoFundMe campaign in support of mental health. – Submitted photo

By Jaymie L. White Special to the Appalachian

STEPHENVILLE – A positivity group and mental health initiative called 80s Summer Camp was started by Keith Muise as a way to promote mental health awareness through positivity, communication, and various in-person and virtual activities for people to get involved with. Since its inception, it has attracted community members and celebrities alike who are donning the shirts to help spread mental health awareness.

“It’s a grassroots movement where you focus on being around others, creativity, positivity, inclusion. It’s basically a Mr. Dressup tickle trunk of strategies to make your life and the lives of others better,” explained Muise.

Muise originally began the group to cope and heal from his own trauma and loss.

“I noticed growing up, me and my friends were super imagination-based. We would go into the woods with a couple of sticks and have the time of our lives,” said Muise. “That carried over to my adult years because I just refused to grow up. I started doing comedy videos and funny stuff online anyway and so, once the fire in Fort McMurray happened and I lost a few family members to cancer, I realized I need something. I need to get back to the way things used to be. I felt, in that moment, the only thing that was going to get me out of my depression was revisiting the stuff that used to always make me happy.”

Muise took some time to reflect on things that truly made him happy, and those things did not include material things or possessions.

“The common denominator of everything was always other people,” said Muise. “The sentiments of ‘back in the day’ are frequently used by everyone, so I thought how can I bring that to ‘now’ for me and for everybody else? I started shooting out positive videos and comedy, weird memes, whatever I could do to remind people of how it used to be for all of us and how it still could be if we remember what we really value in life.”

The camp is as much about online discussions and activities as it is about in-person events.

“When we first started out, we had people taking part in online activities, face-to-face events, and it’s always with the premise of ‘we’re awesome, you’re awesome, and we’re gonna make other people feel awesome’,” said Muise. “With that foundational ideal of all being in this together, so many things have grown out of it. Before COVID we would have events – like one time we teamed up with Canadian Mental Health and went down and drew on the sidewalk on Main Street. I dressed up funny and was walking up and down the road high-fiving people in their cars, and it was just a positive, random event. We did a lot of those; whatever we could do to psych people up.”

The group took off quicker than expected with a large number of participants. However, because of COVID their strategies had to become centered around online videos and activities.

“I was expecting maybe 50 people to show up but the first year we had over 400 and the next year it was over 500,” said Muise. “That was great as we were just starting out, and then we made all these plans for more shows all over Newfoundland, and then COVID came.”

Muise sells t-shirts, and the group uses that money to plan events and programs, but it is much easier to sell a shirt to someone at a live event than it is online. That’s where his current GoFundMe comes in.

Muise wants to be able to take this initiative to the next level, but fundraising efforts have slowed considerably since 2020. Hopefully the online campaign will allow him to hire others to help increase the relief and assistance they can provide.

“If you want to get a message out to people on Facebook and Instagram and things like that you can get the message out, but it is way more absorbed and organically positive if you’re with the people you’re giving the message to,” said Muise. “Lately the amount of people who are asking for shirts, I just can’t keep up with it. I’m a substitute teacher, so right now I’m not going to be able to work for a while. So I ran the GoFundMe and I am going to use the money to buy more shirts and help as many people as I can.”

The group is intended for everybody, and Muise wants people involved to feel like it is as much theirs as it is his.

“80s Summer Camp was never meant to be about me only. It was meant to be something that I build and invite people to be a part of.”

To contribute, visit the 80s Summer Camp GoFundMe campaign at: https://www.gofundme.com/f/support-virtual-mental-health-program.

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