The Movember Foundation’s CEO, Owen Sharp, doesn’t hesitate when he shares his definition of success in the fight against the men’s health crisis:
“That’ll be the day we close our doors for the last time. The aim of every charity should be to shut itself down because we’re here to solve a problem and when it no longer exists we don’t need to be here.”
To get to that bittersweet end game, Owen admits he doesn’t mind being direct ahead of this year’s Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride (DGR) – an incredible world-wide ride-out of classic motorcycles and dapper riders. The DGR is one of the most enjoyable retro-themed events on the calendar, but it carries with it a serious message.
Getting straight to the point
“Rather than beating around the bush, we need everyone to double what they raised last year. If you raised nothing but came along for the ride, raise something this time,” he pleads.
“Every penny, cent and dollar we get allows us to fund cutting-edge research in all four corners of the globe. Many things still need to happen before we can shut our doors and a lot of them depend on access to money. If it means ruffling a few feathers to save lives, that’s fine by me.”
Men die on average six years earlier than women
Owen’s clarity of vision might sound like a pipedream for many in the mission to help men live happier, healthier, longer lives, but he’s determined his global team will realise the goal before he retires. He’s now 46.
The worldwide DGR – this year’s is on 30 September – is now in its sixth year and has made great advances, not only in research but also in raising general awareness of the importance of men taking control of their health.
Men currently die six years earlier than women, a stat Movember wants to halve by 2030, so events like DGR are critical to Owen’s end game: “We’re a long way from not being needed, but by continuing to raise awareness and funds with events like this, the gap is gradually being reduced.”
81% of your funds raised goes towards saving lives
A staggering amount of the money raised globally by the Foundation goes direct to men’s health projects – among the highest ratio of any charity – so even the hardest-nosed classic Triumph rider can know his or her money is going where it will make a tangible difference.
“DGR is hugely powerful for us because it allows us to tap into a community passionate about riding that is now starting to freely talk about men’s mental and physical health without fear of negativity,” says Owen.
“The riding groups men and women join before and after the camaraderie of the DGR event are also important as they get together and talk about their bikes, the football or that nagging health worry they’ve had for a while.”
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Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men. By 2030, there’ll be 1.7 million men living with it
He adds: “I think DGR does a fantastic job of drawing attention to men’s health and prostate cancer. When Movember started, the taches got the issues on the map and DGR has pushed the agenda, but now we really need to start raising some money because there is a great unmet need for men.”
So if he had to put a number on the men still walking the planet today thanks to the efforts of riders and tache growers, what would it be?
“If you look across what Movember has done, then the number of lives we have changed must run into billions because millions have taken part in Movember and the ripple effect will have touched many more. The same goes for DGR. It’s still only a start, which is why we need riders to help us put money in the hands of the brightest people to solve these problems once and for all.”
510,000 men die from suicide each year… one every minute
Owen is also hugely grateful to the hard work and financial backing for DGR from long-term sponsor Triumph: “The role they have played in all we have achieved is massive. It’s a huge, iconic, global brand with real credibility that resonates within and far beyond its communities. It’s bringing funds and support to the charity… and that matters.”
Ultimately though, it is down to men themselves to shape attitudes by starting conversations, just as England footballer Danny Rose did when he spoke of his battle with depression in the build-up to the World Cup.
By 2030 we want to reduce the number of men dying prematurely by 25%
“The more we talk about it, the more role models like Danny Rose will come forward and together we can make a difference,” he smiles. “Once men’s attitudes to their health change and they seek a diagnosis, then the money can make a difference and they give themselves the best chance of not dying too young.
“We know that many men who take their own lives have never spoken to anyone about how they felt. By taking away the stigma through shoulder-to-shoulder conversations, we can reduce the number of men suffering in silence for longer.”
We want to halve the number of deaths from prostate and testicular cancer by 2030
He left doubters who are unsure about joining this year’s DGR with a simple but stark message: “This year it’s vital for all of us to raise money if we ride – do it for your dad, your son, your uncle, your mate… or maybe yourself because one day you might need the support events like this bring.”