FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Home Hardware and SJA Promo are teaming up again to help raise awareness about residential schools by selling Every Child Matters collector pins with the funds going to the Fort St. John Friendship Society.

Local Indigenous artist Alisa Froh, who created the t-shirt design last year, was able to design two pins for this project and says it feels overwhelming.

“I feel very happy to see the supplier brought my vision to life. I collect enamel pins, so I was ecstatic to work on this project with SJA Promos and Home Hardware again and the Friendship [Society],” the artist said.

The first design, “little shoes” (ᐊᐱᐢᒋ ᒪᐢᑭᓯᓂᐢ, Apisci-Maskisinis), features a pair of moccasins with orange hearts on the toes. The moccasins have long ties that would be knotted at each ankle and, according to a release, were created to represent the many children that did not return home from residential schools to learn to tie their own knots.

little shoes” (ᐊᐱᐢᒋ ᒪᐢᑭᓯᓂᐢ, Apisci-Maskisinis) – Tre Lopushinsky

The second design, “nobody is home” (ᓇᒨᔭ ᐊᐃᐧᔭᐠ ᒦᑭᐋᐧᒼ, namôýa awiyak mîkiwâm) features a teepee with orange hearts and small handprints on top of larger handprints. According to a release, this represents the weight of the emptiness that reverberates throughout generations forever after all the children in a community were stolen and as a reminder that too many children never returned home.

nobody is home” (ᓇᒨᔭ ᐊᐃᐧᔭᐠ ᒦᑭᐋᐧᒼ, namôýa awiyak mîkiwâm) – Tre Lopushinsky

Froh says it’s “insane” to think about the money raised and how far her designs have gone.

“I’m very impressed, and I’m very proud to be part of this project. And I hope that everybody was proud to wear the shirts,” she explained.

Only 500 pins of each design were created, and they are hoping to raise $10,000 after raising over $12,000 last year.

“I hope that everybody can grab one, and I hope that everybody feels proud to wear them,” Froh said.

Vanessa Lalonde, with the Fort St. John Friendship Society, says the organzation is so grateful to Alisa and her designs.

“They’ve turned out so beautifully, and even the t-shirts the first time around were just so beautifully done and really important to us and to increase the visibility and the global awareness of this movement.”

Lalonde says the funds raised will be going towards the centre’s child and youth programming.

“We run an afterschool program. We also have the longest-running preschool in Fort St. John. We run a summer program and a spring break program. We’re going to be starting up, come September, youth group programming as well,” she explained.

Lalonde adds that it’s important and meaningful to her and everyone in the organization to maintain these connections with Alisa, SJA Promotions and Home Hardware.

“After all, that’s what community wellness requires and is all about, is continue to make sure we uphold our connections,” she said.

“Make sure that we’re in contact with each other and reconnecting and building a rapport is, for me, my number one focus.”

The pins can be purchased at Home Hardware in Fort St. John for $10 each, and all of the proceeds will go directly to the Fort St. John Friendship Centre.

Shailynn Foster

Shailynn Foster is a news reporter for energeticcity.ca. Shailynn has been writing since she was 7 years old, but only recently started her journey as a journalist. Shailynn was born and raised in Fort St. John and she watches way too much YouTube, Netflix and Disney+ during the week while playing DND on the weekends.