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Fort McMurray man’s grassroots ’80s Summer Camp’ mental health program catches celebrity attention

Keith Muise, centre, launched his "80s Summer Camp" mental health campaign in 2016 to raise awareness. He's using the power of celebrity and social media, including Game of Thrones alums Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (L) and John Bradley (R) to spread the campaign's reach.
Keith Muise, centre, launched his "80s Summer Camp" mental health campaign in 2016 to raise awareness. He's using the power of celebrity and social media, including Game of Thrones alums Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (L) and John Bradley (R) to spread the campaign's reach. Instagram / 80s Summer Camp

A Fort McMurray man’s work to spread awareness of mental health issues is catching on worldwide.

Keith Muise launched “80s Summer Camp,” a grassroots effort to get people talking about their mental health, just days after the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire.

“At that time, I was also dealing with depression from the loss of my grandmother and my father. They both died of cancer in about a 13-month span. Really took a negative toll on me. I was in a very dark place for many years,” Muise said.

“And then the fire happened. [And] four days after the fire happened, we lost my father-in-law to cancer, and I just decided it’s either sink or swim. I have to do something right now.”

READ MORE: Over a third of youths in Fort McMurray show signs of PTSD in wake of 2016 wildfire disaster: researchers

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Muise launched the awareness campaign first locally — to others who had gone through the wildfire evacuation — but has since expanded to involve people all over the world.

He had “80s Summer Camp” T-shirts designed hoping that people would wear them and start conversations.

Muise chose the name because he felt that summer camps in the 1980s were full of carefree, fun moments, and he hopes people wear the shirts while they enjoy themselves so they will be associated with positive memories.

“Basically, to give people this Superman cape to put on whenever they’re feeling a little down,” he said.

“[The T-shirts are] a reminder to people that mental health issues do exist, and that there [are] many people dealing with them, and they’re not alone.

“When it comes to mental health, everybody wants to help somebody who is suffering.”

Famous faces spread the word

Shortly after the launch, Muise reached out to some celebrities using social media in hopes that they would help get the campaign going.

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“[I thought] maybe if I can get famous people… to help spread the word, more people would realize that they aren’t alone,” Muise said.

“It’s all about promotion of as much positivity as we can find.”

Several well-known actors and actresses have worn the shirts after being contacted by Muise: Game of Thrones alums John Bradley and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Breaking Bad alum and cerebral palsy activist RJ Mitte, Pretty Little Liars actress Troian Bellisario and dozens of others.

View this post on Instagram

Say hello to our Newest Camper! Welcome to Camp, John Bradley!! Whoop, Woop! Samwell Tarley from Game of Thrones! You’ve also seen him in Borgia, Shameless, Merlin, Traders, American Satan, Patient Zero, and look for him in Marry Me and The Debt Inherited coming soon. We are very excited that John has received a shirt and taken the time to spread some Awareness for Mental Health. John is a great example of positivity and we are extremely proud to call him a Camper. Thanks for taking the time John, we are so happy that you helped out, and don’t forget..... YerAweSum! T-shirts available at www.80ssummercamp.com in the shop section. Profits from the shirts to toward purchasing more shirts to give away to others who, A. Need a pick me up. B. Can’t afford one, C. Are just plain AweSum, as well as running events to make the world a happier place. #mentalhealth #mentalhealthawareness #YerAweSum #keithmuise #80sSummerCamp #positivity #smile #fashion #tshirt #instamood #repost #actor #gameofthrones #johnsnow #GOT #hbo #samwelltarly #throwback #instagram #insta #instamood #pictureoftheday #fashionblogger #epic #instalike #instagood #instafashion #instadaily @johnbradleywest #shirt #christmas

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Say hello to our Newest Camper! Welcome to Camp Nikolaj Coster- Waldau!! Whoop, Woop! Jaime Lannister from Game of Thrones! Nikolaj has been busy in the entertainment world working as an actor, writer and producer and he is also a great advocate for animal conservation and mental health. Nikolaj has appeared in Black Hawk Down, Kingdom of Heaven, New Amsterdam, Mama, Oblivion, The Other Woman, A Second Chance, Gods of Egypt, Small Crimes, 3 Things, Shot Caller, Domino, Suicide Tourist and many more and we can’t wait to see what he has in store next. Nikolaj supports a great initiative and fund that supports wildlife preservation called The Lions Share and you can check it out at www.lionssharefund.com Thank you so much for taking the time to spread some awareness for mental health Nikolaj, and for all the work you do for Animals and the Environment. We are beyond excited to call you a Camper and don’t forget.... YerAweSum!! T-shirts Available at www.80ssummercamp.com and produced by www.tshirtelephant.com #mentalhealth #mentalhealthawareness #YerAweSum #keithmuise #80sSummerCamp #positivity #smile #fashion #tshirt #instamood #repost #actor #gameofthrones #johnsnow #GOT #hbo #activist #animalconservation #fbf #throwback #instagram #insta #instamood #pictureoftheday #friday #weekend @nikolajwilliamcw #fashionblogger #epic #instalike #tbt

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Muise said that the idea of a “virtual summer camp” had been in his head for some time but now he hopes to continue to expand and become a registered non-profit. There are also plans in the works to host an actual summer camp in 2020.

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“My goal isn’t to make money; it’s to spread awareness. The little bit of money that we’ve had, it just goes back into buying more T-shirts,” he said.

Muise connects with “80s Summer Camp” members on active Facebook and Instagram pages.

T-shirts can be purchased online.

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