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Upon learning of the tragedy at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in late May, as many individuals and organizations expressed their heartfelt sympathy to Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc First Nation and all First Nations communities and families affected by the news, Chilliwack FC began exploring how the organization and its membership could respond in another meaningful way.

Laura Plant, the parent of a young Chilliwack FC soccer player, suggested the creation of an orange tee shirt that members could wear in solidarity. In consultation with Chief David Jimmie of Squiala First Nation, and President of the Stó:ló Nation Chiefs Council (SNCC), and Chief Derek Epp of Tzeachten First Nation, Chilliwack FC determined the shirt could be sold with proceeds to be donated to a trust fund for the upcoming work planned by the SNCC, including the research of potential burial sites locally and the bringing home of Stó:ló people should they be found at the Kamloops site.

“During a ceremony held at Coqualeetza to honour our elders, care givers, and survivors of residential schools, a donation was made by those in attendance to start a trust fund to help with the upcoming work we have planned,” Jimmie said. “Addressing the need to locate our burial sites is very challenging,” Epp added. “We are grateful to Chilliwack FC for their willingness to work with us to support the needs of the community.”

Designed by Coast Salish artist Bonny Graham (B. Wyse), the tee shirt includes the phrase ‘every child matters’ in a custom font inspired by Coast Salish design.

Of the artwork Graham said, “The design reflects a child playing soccer, running and living a life of freedom. The impact, to understand how the recovered children and lost souls lived in oppression and were never given the chance to live and run freely as we do today; and represented in the 215 feathers floating and flying in the winds of change.”

The annual Orange Shirt Day takes place each year on September 30. According to OrangeShirtDay.org, on this day events are organized to remember the residential school experience, to witness and honour survivors and their families, and to commit to the ongoing process of reconciliation. Individual communities will be hosting their own smaller gatherings.

Orders are expected to arrive in early July.

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