Christie Buono, Senior Manager of Community Partnerships, spoke to three former BC Lions football players and a former coach on why they are ambassadors for Ending Violence Association of BC (EVA BC) and why it’s important for men to join the conversation on gender-based violence.
Learn why Wally Buono, JR LaRose, Solomon Elimimian, and Angus Reid are using their voice to support women’s health and the BC Women’s Health Foundation (BCWHF) mask campaign.
Wally Buono – Retired VP, GM, & Head Coach of the BC Lions, Hall of Famer, recipient of the Order of Canada
JR LaRose – Former player with the BC Lions, 2011 Grey Cup Champion
Solomon Elimimian – Former BC Lions, 2010 Rookie of the year, 2011 Grey Cup Champion, 2014 CFL Most Outstanding Player, 2016 CFL Defensive Player of the Year and current Saskatchewan Roughriders & President of the CFL Players Association
Angus Reid – Former player with the BC Lions, two-time Grey Cup Champion
CB: Do you have a personal story you’d feel comfortable sharing that inspired you to support women’s health?
JR: Women are the pillars of our communities so when women are healthy, our communities thrive.
WB: I have come to be more aware of women’s health thanks to you, Christie. Watching your experience and diagnosis of fibromyalgia and chronic pain and years of medical treatment really opened my eyes. Fortunately, you had excellent support for which I am very grateful. And now, I am proud of your work at BC Women’s Heath Foundation.
CB: How did you get involved with EVA BC?
JR: I was also introduced to the BMTB (Be More Than a Bystander) campaign when I was playing with the BC Lions back in 2011. It challenged me in a significant way. I was grateful to have the opportunity to work with EVA and empower more men to become a part of the solution.
SE: I got involved with EVA BC during my time with the BC Lions as I participated in the Be More Than A Bystander program.
WB: The BC Lions were approached to be involved in an issue that wasn’t given the respect and attention from men that it should have. After discussing it with the leadership team with the Lions we decided that this cause was worth us getting into partnership with and fighting for and thus the Be More Than a Bystander Program was created.
AR: I was part of the original BC Lions group of players that trained for the very first Be More Than A Bystander program in 2010. Since that time I have become one of their head ambassadors facilitating workshops and speaking up on these issues representing EVA all across Canada.
CB: What did you think when you first saw the BC Women’s Health Foundation’s EVA BC masks and were asked to support the campaign?
JR: What a great campaign! This partnership is a no brainer and the masks are so relevant.
WB: When I first saw the mask I was excited to think of how it will help women’s health and EVA BC generate awareness and financial support.
SE: Seeing the mask was awesome, the design and uniqueness of the masks really stood out.
AR: I love them! What an amazing platform to utilize to keep our message front and centre. It works so well to link it directly with a message of personal health and keeping all people safe.
CB: What does it mean to you to be representing BCWHF and EVA BC by wearing a mask that means more than just “protection,” a mask that’s actually tied to a cause you hold close to your heart?
JR: I was honoured to be asked to participate in this campaign. Some people believe in a cause but don’t know how to help. The masks provide a practical way for people to contribute and spark conversation in their own circles.
WB: As a man, I am proud to bring this cause to the attention of others – especially to other men – about women’s health and women’s concerns.
SE: I think the world needs empathy. Even though I didn’t grow up experiencing domestic violence or violence towards women, when I heard the stories and saw the stats I was compelled to use my platform to effect change.
AR: It’s a true honour for me. My mom had always told me that if I was ever in a position where someone would listen to me – say something that matters. It’s a privilege to have a position where people look to you and it’s my honour and duty to use that position to talk about things that matter. And women’s health and safety has been an ongoing issue for forever – it’s time to break the silence on violence against women and use whatever platform we have to do so.
CB: Are you looking forward to the conversations your new BCWHF x EVA BC mask might strike up?
JR: We want to get people talking. I welcome people to stop me and strike up a conversation. Not only is the mask relevant in our world today but it will provide opportunities for people to spark conversation in their own circles and communities.
WB: I do look forward to conversations about the mask because they will give me an opportunity to highlight the concerns of EVA BC and BC Women’s. I was unaware of these things before I became involved and I want to share that information with others. With discussion we might be able to help and make a change.
SE: Yes I think that conversation would be the benefit of wearing the mask as we can bring awareness and information to the import issue of violence against women.
AR: Yes. Can’t wait.
CB: How does it feel to stand as an ally and be connected off the football field — with your old coach and teammates during this time?
JR: It’s inspiring to see other men, who I deeply respect, come alongside and support BCWHF and EVA BC. We need more men to step up and keep one another accountable.
WB: I am happy that other strong men see the need and value in supporting BC Women’s Health and EVA. Together we will make a difference.
SE: It is great to be aligned with people you care for and know you are on the same team once again to make a difference.
AR: It’s a reminder that we will always be on the same team. Always be united in doing what we can together to help others. To bring our best and do the best we can. That’s a reality that I’m so blessed to know because of my years playing this great sport of football. It binds people together in a common goal. That goal may now be different but our ability to come together as one will never change.
CB: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us. Finally, is there a woman or women in your life who inspires you?
JR: I lost both my mom and sister years ago but they both never stop inspiring me. They overcame so much. And of course my wife. After 17 years together I continue to learn from her. She’s brilliant. I’m in awe of her constant grace under pressure. She’s got finesse and I love that.
WB: I am surrounded by strong women. I have a wife and three daughters and three granddaughters who inspire me everyday but I am truly inspired by my mother who raised my brother and myself on her own after my dad passed away at a very early age.
SE: My mother is an inspiration to me and our family, her strength and courage is unmatched. seeing what she sacrificed to raise 5 strong children is truly amazing.
AR: My mom – hands down. The strongest person I know. Raised her six children with the most love anyone could give. She also did her best to help and raise every single one of our teammates and friends that ever needed any support/ guidance / love or even just a good meal. She is my daily reminder that the value of my life is in my ability to care for and help others.
We are so grateful that these men have chosen to join the conversation on gender-based violence. We can all stand together to provide an equal and healthy world for women.
Want to join the conversation too? Purchase our “Ending Violence Together” face mask and 100% net proceeds will support our partnership with EVA BC.
BC Women’s Health Foundation is BC’s largest non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the full spectrum of women’s health. The information shared is intended to educate, inform, and point readers to credible sources. It is not intended to substitute professional medical advice.
If you or someone you know is experiencing gender-based violence — VictimLinkBC is available 24-7 in multiple languages. It can be reached toll-free by calling 800-563-0808 or emailing VictimLinkBC@bc211.ca. The service is confidential and available across BC and Yukon.