Former Winnipeg Blue Bomber fullback John Rush, a local Twitter favourite, has booked his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine for May 31, and he’s making sure it’s an affair to remember.
After seeing people posting photos of themselves online, in which they are dressed in formal attire for their shot, Rush decided he would get dressed up for the occasion. He considered renting a tuxedo, then thought about a wedding gown.
"Everyone has been living in their sweatpants for the last year, so this was the perfect chance to dress up," he said. "I am a confident cisgendered man. I have absolutely no problem wearing a dress out in public. Not everyone is afforded that opportunity."
When Rush mentioned on Twitter that he might wear a wedding gown to receive his vaccine, he was flooded with support.
Since his appointment falls on the day before Pride month begins, Rush decided to create a GoFundMe fundraiser: donors get to vote on whether he wears a wedding gown or a tuxedo with tear-away sleeves (for easy vaccine access) to his appointment. He has already surpassed his original goal to raise $5,000 for the Rainbow Resource Centre, a non-profit organization that serves the LGBTTQ+ community in Manitoba and northwestern Ontario.
"I figured that I can use this as an opportunity and actually do something with it," Rush said.
So far, most donors have voted for the wedding gown, and why wouldn’t they? There’s nothing more spectacular than seeing someone in a beautiful gown to celebrate something wonderful. As musician Harry Styles told Vogue in December when he graced the magazine cover in a stunning Gucci gown, "If you get something you feel amazing in, it’s like a superhero outfit."
If there were ever a superhero moment, getting a life-saving vaccine is it.
Even though the appointment isn’t for two weeks, Rush has started making plans for the big day.
He’s connected with a photographer to snap photos of him and his dogs, and he’s on the hunt for the perfect wedding dress that will fit his 6-1,227-pound frame.
He said he hopes someone has one they could lend him. (Seriously, if you have one that he can borrow, reach out to him on Twitter at @JohnRush32)
The animal lover and activist plans to go all out for the occasion, with a flower tiara and flowers set in his beard. His beloved dogs will get dolled up for a photo shoot.
Both dogs, who are named Bailey and Bon Homme, are Twitter celebrities in their own right. The two Great Pyrenees-mixes play a starring role on Rush’s Twitter feed, and the 14,800 followers can’t seem to get enough of them. It’s only natural that Bailey, who will be dressed as the flower girl and Bonne Homme, who will sport a bowtie and take on the role as the minister, would be involved.
Rush’s goal is to celebrate his long-awaited COVID-19 shot in style with his dogs and raising money for an organization dedicated to doing amazing outreach work.
"If I can use what little influence I have as a professional athlete to help raise awareness and break gender norms, then why wouldn’t I?" he said.
Columnist, Manager of Reader Bridge project
Shelley Cook is a columnist at the Winnipeg Free Press and manages the paper's Reader Bridge project, which seeks to expand coverage of underserved communities.