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Chilliwack man selling orange t-shirts to ‘blast awareness’ about residential school trauma

Goal is raising $20,000 to $25,000 for survivor organizations from orange shirt project for 2022
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Shawn E. Baginski with his 2022 orange shirt, designed by his cousin, Evan Aster Sr. with the theme ‘Spirit of our Ancestors.’ (Jennifer Feinberg/ Chilliwack Progress)

Shawn E. Baginski of Chilliwack is out to blast awareness about the inter-generational trauma from residential schools with his orange t-shirt project for a second year in a row.

Last year he printed a huge pile of orange t-shirts through his company Blackfish Design T-Shirts to raise awareness about the tragic legacy of residential schools.

He sold the shirts at a reasonable price, and donated everything above cost.

It was a runaway success. Baginski was thrilled when he realized he’d sold about a thousand shirts and was able to donate almost $10,000 to the Orange Shirt Society.

This year he’s upped the ante somewhat with a fresh design and the plan to donate all proceeds to two organizations.

To come up with the 2022 t-shirt design ‘Spirit of our Ancestors,’ he commissioned his cousin, Evan Aster Sr., who is Tsimshian from Gitxaala Nation, living in Terrace.

Aster wrote this about his design: “When we honour our ancestors we honour their spirits. Our teachings taught us that the sprits of our ancestors would visit us to guide and protect us. They are the voice that whispers in our ears. Remembering the thousands of children who didn’t come home and the survivors of the residential system.”

Less than a week before Orange Shirt Day Baginski has been selling shirts like hotcakes. He started out with 1,600 shirts ready to go including 100 hoodies.

He partnered with his employer, Chilliwack Ford, who donated to the project, and Pink N Blue Kidz, who have offered him space in their store on Wellington Avenue in downtown Chilliwack.

Baginski has set a goal of raising $20,000 to $25,000 from the orange shirt sales for 2022. All of the proceeds are going to two groups, OrangeShirtDay.Org and Indian Residential School Survivors Society.

Part of his motivation for the second year of this passion project is that he briefly attended residential school himself.

“Luckily for me it was only for a year,” Baginski said. “But it’s near and dear to my heart. I can only imagine the horrors or trauma that other survivors have gone through. I was lucky to have a supportive family.”

Something concrete that he figured he could do was raising funds to organizations that are there to help people reconcile the trauma they’ve been through.

“And I realized it’s not just the survivors who are impacted, it affects their kids and grandkids. That’s the inter-generational aspect of the trauma.

“We have to stop that cycle.”

RELATED: Residential school survivor designs orange shirt

RELATED: Orange shirt gathering in Chilliwack park

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Jennifer Feinberg

About the Author: Jennifer Feinberg

I have been a Chilliwack Progress reporter for 20+ years, covering the arts, city hall, as well as Indigenous, and climate change stories.
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