Local starts relief fund with clothing line

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An Airdrie man is spearheading a national correctional officer relief fund with the proceeds coming from a new clothing line called Never Walk Alone.

Working as a correctional officer at the Drumheller Institution for the past three years, Matt Huntley, 34, said an average officer would go through 38 critical events in his or her career ranging from inmate overdoses, violence and suicide attempts.

The relief fund is designed to support any officer struggling due to his or her current situation, he said, be it injury, mental health or caring for a family member or child.

“I wanted to help my officers around the country,” Huntley said. “I (made it) as broad as possible to let them know that we are all together.”

Though there is usually public interest in the arrest and trial of an inmate, he said that gets pushed aside once the individual gets into the prison system.

Working in a medium security prison, Huntley said three officers can have anywhere from 120 to 140 inmates around them at one time.

“The job comes with a heightened sense of stress,” he said. “We go through a lot (and) can develop some form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.”

A double meaning weighs behind the saying Never Walk Alone featured on the clothing, he said.

Every hour, correctional officers conduct a range walk to ensure all the inmates are alive, breathing and safe. This walk, Huntley said, is never done alone.

“There’s always another officer watching you,” he said. “With the relief fund, I wanted to let (officers) know that they are not alone. We’re looking out for each other.”

Clothing targeted at correctional officers already exists but Huntley said that is often just Correctional Service of Canada’s logo on a T-shirt.

Never Walk Alone accentuates the message of the relief fund with a thin blue line, a common symbol used by law enforcement, designed into a logo that could be worn by anyone.

Working with a third party seller out of Toronto, Never Walk Alone offers fully customizable hats, hoodies, T-shirts, sweatpants, gym bags and jackets for both men and women.

With 100 per cent of what he receives from clothing sales going toward the relief fund, Huntley said he is almost halfway to reaching the goal needed to help the first officer.

“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “There are so many people who can be helped.”

To purchase Never Walk Alone clothing, visit correctionalservice.entripyshops.com.

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