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Local businesses are using their clout to promote Pink Shirt Day and raise money for anti-bullying programs

Coast Capital, London Drugs and the BCGEU are sounding the alarm and throwing their heft behind Pink Shirt Day in support of the CKNW Orphans’ Fund.

The annual anti-bullying event began in 2007 when two Grade 12 students at a high school in Cambridge, Nova Scotia, witnessed a group of kids yell homophobic slurs at a Grade 9 boy. In a show of support, the two seniors bought 50 pink shirts to wear to school the next day. Pink Shirt Day has grown as an international event since then.

London Drugs has made the $9.80 shirt available at all 76 of its locations, and hopes to sell 12,000 shirts with proceeds going to the CKNW Orphans’ Fund and Boys and Girls Clubs across Western Canada supporting anti-bullying programs.

London Drugs has raised $330,000 over the past five Pink Shirt Days. “The lion’s share is kids shirts, but it’s amazing how many adult shirts we sell,” says Dave Woogman, a London Drugs store manager, who has seen 600 go through his store’s inventory this year. “It’s probably one of the most popular days among our staff,” he adds.

While schoolyard bullying can dampen kids’ self-esteem, it also has real economic costs. The American National Association of Secondary School Principles (NASSP) estimates that eight per cent of middle school students skip school at least once due to bullying. For a school with 1,000 students, a conservative six-per-cent truancy rate amounts to at least $21,600 in lost average daily attendance funding. Add suspensions, expulsions and dropouts and the costs can top $60,000 before accounting for losses in funding.

Over the past six years, the Pink Shirt Day has encouraged students, parents and teachers across the province to stand up to bullying. “It’s something that just about everybody you talk to supports,” says Woogman. “When you see people wearing pink shirts on Wednesday, you’ll know what the purpose is.”

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