British Columbia

Vancouver orange shirt campaign raises more than $37,000 for Urban Native Youth Association

A Vancouver gift shop sold hundreds of orange shirts to people from coast to coast to coast, raising thousands of dollars for a local non-profit that supports Indigenous youth.

2,700 shirts featuring Indigenous artist KC Hall's design were sold to people around the world

Robert Pacey and Cheryl Robinson model the orange shirts they worked together to created, to raise money for the Urban Native Youth Association in Vancouver, B.C. (Submitted by Robert Pacey)

This Thursday, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada, people from across the country will don orange shirts in solidarity with and in support of Indigenous people. 

That includes more than 2,700 shirts pressed by a local Vancouver shop, which just donated 100 per cent of the proceeds from their orange shirt campaign to the Urban Native Youth Association (UNYA), to the tune of more than $37,000. 

As First Nations across Canada announced they were searching residential schools for missing children, making national and international headlines, businesses, organizations and individuals launched fundraising campaigns to support Survivors, their families and their communities.

Many of those fundraisers focused on orange shirt campaigns, causing a worldwide shortage of orange t-shirts. MAKE, a Granville Island shop that specializes in custom shirts, however, had a bit of an advantage accessing orange shirts.

Robert Pacey, marketing manager for MAKE, said UNYA was the perfect fit for a fundraiser campaign. The organization had just sold out of 500 orange shirts in five days, and couldn't keep up. MAKE had worked with them in the past, providing their clients with masks during the COVID-19 pandemic, and felt they could do more. 

Since it was established in 1988, UNYA has worked to provide opportunities for Indigenous youth in Vancouver. The non-profit offers access to healthcare, exercise classes, educational courses and a food pantry, among other services.

"We've seen what they've done and what they do, and we just really thought what they were doing was amazing," Pacey said. 

They worked with UNYA and local Indigenous artist KC Hall, who donated the design, to create their unique orange shirt. 

MAKE sold more than 2,700 orange shirts featuring a design by KC Hall, with 100 per cent of the proceeds being donated to the Urban Native Youth Association. (Submitted by Robert Pacey)

MAKE sold hundreds of shirts primarily online, from coast to coast to coast; they shipped orange shirts to Vancouver Island, all the way to Halifax and north to Inuvik. They also received orders from the Netherlands and the U.S. 

By the end of the campaign, the Vancouver shop raised $37,373. 

"I was blown away," UNYA CEO Cheryl Robinson said. 

"I knew there was a lot of traffic and I knew that there were a lot of people looking for orange shirts, but just the magnitude. You never know what is coming out of a fundraiser."

The funds will go toward operating the Native Youth Learning Centre over the next six months. 

Robinson said it costs the association nearly $6 million to operate its buildings and programs every year, most of which comes from grants.

"The Indigenous community feels supported when they see people rallying around them and knowing that this is an important cause," Robinson said. 

"I think that really helps with the continuing education of learning about what these impacts of residential school and the communities that the history of colonization is and helping unleash some of that in order to help with healing and help the globe."