'The world needs strong leaders': Alberta's medical face of COVID-19 shines light in dark times

A Calgary assistant principal was so inspired by the daily COVID-19 updates from Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, she came up with a shirt that is raising thousands of dollars for children and food banks across the province.

'What would Dr. Hinshaw do?' T-shirt raises thousands for food banks and hungry schoolchildren

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, has been giving daily updates on the COVID-19 situation (until this past weekend where she took off some time to spend with her family). Albertans have noticed, even creating a T-shirt in her honour. (The Canadian Press/

A Calgary school's assistant principal was so inspired by the daily COVID-19 updates from Alberta's chief medical officer of health she came up with a shirt that is raising thousands of dollars for children and food banks across the province.

"She is just so remarkable in the way she manages this massive amount of information in a way that makes people feel calm and supported," Alison Van Rosendaal told CBC News.

"She does it with a generosity of spirit."

Van Rosendaal says Dr. Deena Hinshaw is more than just a reliable source of information many Albertans have come to count on.

Alison Van Rosendaal, right, had an idea late one night to honour the work of Alberta's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw. These T-shirts have raised about $9,000, as of Sunday afternoon, for food banks and food-insecure school children. (Submitted by Julie Van Rosendaal)

"The world needs strong leaders. Recently, leadership has become this highly-politicized, binary, shallow, partisan phenomenon. In Dr. Hinshaw, we see someone who is deeply immersed in high-quality information who is not discriminating between individuals in society," Van Rosendaal said.

"She's making decisions about the greater good and doing things with an abundance of care."

One night last week, Van Rosendaal tossed and turned in bed, until an idea came to her.

"At 2:30 in the morning I took a screen capture of Dr. Hinshaw, traced it, made the caption and emailed it to a T-shirt company, asking for 10 of them," she explained.

Van Rosendaal thought she would take two or three of them and auction off the rest.

That was, until her sister, noted food columnist and regular CBC News contributor Julie Van Rosendaal, tweeted the design and got things rolling.

"There was a rush of interest," Van Rosendaal said.

That initial 10 she had in mind, quickly turned into about 750 based purely on demand, within 12 hours of a fundraising website a Red Deer friend set up for her.

As of Sunday afternoon, Van Rosendaal had sold about $9,000 in T-shifts with proceeds going to food banks and programs that address food insecurity among schoolchildren.

'What would Dr. Hinshaw do?' was a no-brainer, Van Rosendaal said, because it works on so many levels.

"Her responses are completely non-judgmental," Van Rosendaal said.

"They invite us to be our best selves and take care of one another without judging or excluding anyone."

Dr. Hinshaw says fundraisers like Van Rosendaal's are fine if they are carefully monitored.

"I am aware of a number of fundraising campaigns that are using my image to bring attention to COVID-19 and support charitable organizations. I am supportive of these type of initiatives if proceeds go to charities and not for personal gain or profit," Hinshaw wrote in a emailed statement to CBC News.

"We are all in this together, and we all need to do our part in response."

Van Rosendaal has a statement for Hinshaw, too.

"I want to be her when I grow up," Van Rosendaal said.

"She is the leader I aspire to be."


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