From now till February 23rd, people across the country are pushing for better mental health for the 20 per cent of Canadians who will experience a 
mental illness each year.

It's The Push-Up Challenge, the latest brainchild of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), pushing Canadians to get fit, have fun and learn about mental health, while raising funds for key mental health services in Canada.

Altona Police Service (APS) has put together an 11-member team to participate in The Push-up Challenge.

"The idea is to do 2000 push-ups in 23 days starting February 1st," explains Constable Tristan Fournier-Jones, captain of Team APS. "Every day you get a different set goal of how many pushups you need to do. There’s a fact that goes along with it. The idea is obviously to raise funds as a team or individual."

His role with the force is what drew Fournier-Jones to the idea. 

"As first responders, it's important for us to take care of our own mental health. We, unfortunately, have to deal with people who are in mental health crisis quite often, as part of our job. This just seemed like a great way to bring awareness to the community, do something fun. If we could raise money at the same time for a good cause, it seemed like a good idea."

Participants use an app to track daily push-ups and smash push-up targets. 

What's cool about how the app was set up is that anyone can join said Fournier-Jones.

Team APS includes members of the force, but it reaches into the community as well.

"[We have] people that aren't associated with the town of Altona, we have people that work for the town of Altona that are involved so that's fun. Someone that's on our police board is involved and we have general community members that wanted to get involved and did. That's kind of cool! You don't have to know the team. You can sign up with any team and that's cool." 

After downloading the easy-to-use app, participants will be able to see daily targets, bank push-ups, see how their team is doing, learn about mental health, get fundraising tips and start push-up prep.

"Day-to-day you get a notification on your phone that tells you, today you're going to do so many push-ups. There's always a reason tied to that number. So today, the reason for doing 63 pushups [is the fact that] 63 per cent of Indigenous women in Canada have experienced physical or sexual assault. You can only bank backwards, but you can't bank forward. If you missed a day for whatever reason, then you can always go back. Also, you don't have to do all the push-ups in one shot. You can do one every 45 minutes. Do whatever you gotta do."

How close is Team APS to reaching its fundraising goal of $500?

"That took less than 24 hours - that was awesome! People started donating the day before [the event officially began]. Then on February 1st by 6:00 in the evening we were past $500."
Fournier-Jones was surprised to learn that they were among the top twenty fundraisers in the First Responder category.

"That's awesome! Obviously, we like to be number one because who doesn't want to be number one. The fundraising part was a nice, fun aspect. Initially, when we brought it forward, it was really just for raising awareness and for team building, a little bit of camaraderie at work. It's grown into a little bit more than that. It's really great! If anyone wants to donate to our team, we would love to be number 1 - that would be fantastic!"

Now that the team has gone beyond its original goal, Fournier-Jones say they're hoping double or even triple that figure. 

"What was really nice about how CMHA set up the app is that you can target [your donation directly toward Team APS]. When we set it up we were able to pick that the money would come back to the province of Manitoba and come back to our region so it would help our area and our community."

Team APS pushups and donations can be tracked on the department's Facebook page or by clicking here.

To make a donation see the APS Instagram page or visit The Push-Up Challenge website

~With files from Zack Driedger~