Third year of pandemic-inspired fundraising effort by CIUSSS West-Central Montreal leaders aims to be the biggest yet, with funds going to the health and well-being of JGH and CIUSSS employees

In past years, we heard a lot about how COVID-19 pandemic has affected doctors, nurses and patients. It also has had a profound impact on hospital administrators, both personally and as they worked to alleviate the constant strains on their employees and institutions.

In fall 2020, as a new wave of infections peaked and vaccines were still over the horizon, André Poitras felt something should be done. He is Associate Director of Nursing at the CIUSSS West-Central Montreal, which is the health network that oversees the Jewish General Hospital (JGH) and other health and social services in the region.

“I wanted to do something to help and lift the mood during those dark days of the pandemic,” he recalled recently. “I like getting people together so I thought we could use our leadership as influencers for a good cause. I wanted to raise the mood with a fun activity.”

He quickly teamed up with two colleagues who embraced the idea: Dan Gabay, Associate CEO, and Serge Cloutier, Director of Nursing. November was coming so they were inspired by the Movember charity during which men grow moustaches and raise money for men’s cancers.

“The money raised will go towards the health and well-being of staff at the JGH and CIUSSS.”

But the trio wanted their own, unconnected activities, so “Moustache for a Cause” was born. Without experience or facilities to raise funds effectively, they turned to the JGH Foundation for help.

“The energy of the JGH Foundation was contagious in giving us ideas and encouragement, such as getting t-shirts and taking funny pictures of ourselves,” recalled Gabay. “They’ve been a great support.”

16 colleagues raised $20,000 in first year

That first year they recruited colleagues so there were 16 people taking part in growing their moustaches and finding fun ways to raise funds from other employees, despite the pandemic restrictions which prohibited any group activities or gatherings. The result of that first fun-filled effort was a donation of $20,000 to the JGH’s Urology Department, where prostate cancer is treated.

But they achieved more than just raising money for a good cause. “The pandemic has not been easy on anyone, but everyone gave their maximum to ensure the best care for our clients,” said Cloutier. “But it came at a price – people have had a hard time. More than the amount raised that first year, it was the action that was important – to bring people together. I’m seeing a lot of positives in this.”

“It gave us a chance to be silly and smile a bit,” added Gabay. “It allowed us to change the focus to something other than COVID and to find some time to laugh. We all needed that.”

The group was keen to continue their efforts last year and did so, but their activities continued to be limited by pandemic restrictions. However, the need to help relieve the tensions on all the staff was as high as ever as a further new wave of cases crested. “It was even more challenging last year because there were still lots of pandemic restrictions and people were very tired and patients were sicker,” recalled Poitras.

However, last year their numbers increased to 20 participants, who collectively raised $25,000. They felt it only fair that after supporting men’s cancers their first year, that last year’s donation go towards care for women’s gynecological cancers.

“This year we are going full-blown”

The trio and their colleagues are now active for the third year of “Moustache for a Cause” and are hoping to make it even bigger.

“This year we are going full-blown,” said Poitras.

They thought hard about how the money raised this year should be used and decided it will go towards the health and well-being of staff at the JGH and CIUSSS. “COVID has been very hard on all employees, but the resilience of the staff has been really something,” said Gabay. “Now we want to help everyone benefit by being able to fund some additional wellness activities or facilities.”

“It’s a way for us to build cohesion through the hospital and across the CIUSSS,” added Cloutier. “Nursing was hit hard. I always try to bring a smile to work for my colleagues. This project lets people laugh at our silly moustaches and have some fun.”

“I’m a nurse and I care about people,” said Poitras, recalling his professional background. “In our job, tough stuff is omni-present and it’s been so hard with so many sick and scared patients. We’ve had to work hard to find a way to double and then triple our ICU beds. I’m there to help people and support them to give excellent care.

“The best results come from seeing patients thanking us for the care they have received. We want to help all on our team continue to be able to do that – and to lighten our load just a bit with a smile and some fun.”

To make a donation to Moustache for a Cause, please go to