Schitt's Creek Fans Raise $20K for LGBT Youth on Dan Levy's Birthday
'Schitt's Creek' Fans Raise $20K for LGBT Youth on Dan Levy's Birthday
"This is without a doubt the most meaningful birthday gift I've ever received," Levy tells PRIDE.
Never underestimate a fandom with a mission.
Fans of Schitt's Creek, the Canadian sitcom that recently broke into the mainstream with four Emmy nominations including Outstanding Comedy Series, are celebrating creator Dan Levy's birthday today with a fundraiser for LGBT Youth Line in Ontario—and they've raised $20,000 and counting.
The comedy about a formerly-wealthy family living in an eccentric small town has gained a devoted following, especially among LGBTQ+ viewers for its portrayal of Levy's pansexual character David and his fiancé and business partner Patrick (Noah Reid). So it's fitting that Levy's birthday fundraiser will directly benefit queer youth in rural areas and indigenous communities across Ontario.
Bea Edwards, a Schitt's Creek fan from Indiana and the lead organizer of the project, told PRIDE that the show's message of celebrating love and diversity has really resonated with her, and with viewers around the world. "The world that Dan created—one of acceptance and joy and, above all things, love—is one I think a lot of us wish we lived in these days."
As the show's sixth and final season wrapped filming in June, a handful of fans who met online started discussing how they could give back and say thank you. Edwards, who worked in politics and advocacy for several years, raised the idea of channeling their love for Schitt's Creek into tangible support for the LGBTQ+ community. "When I suggested a fundraiser, this awesome group of people jumped right in to say they wanted to help."
The group of 11 organizers, many of them young queer people, reached out from across the United States, Canada, Italy, and Australia to connect with LGBT Youth Line and set up the campaign through crowdfunding site CanadaHelps.org. As other fans learned of the project, it shot past the initial $500 goal and cleared $2,600 in the first 24 hours. Before long, the Schitt's Creek social media team and Dan Levy himself were sharing the link on Twitter, and the organizers had to set bigger and bigger goals as donations kept coming in.
One recent donation of $265 came with the message, "Happy Birthday, my sweet David. Love, Mom," which PRIDE confirmed is from Schitt's Creek's Emmy-nominated lead actress Catherine O'Hara.
"I've definitely been moved to tears, including in random public places, these past few weeks, reading some of the messages people have left on the donation page and in our inbox," Edwards said. "They show that when you put things out into the world that bring joy and celebrate love and acceptance like Dan has, you inspire other people to put light and love out into the world as well."
Six of the organizers are now planning to meet in person to celebrate at a "Schitt's Creek: Up Close and Personal" event in Detroit on August 10.
LGBT Youth Line executive director Berkha Gupta told PRIDE that their small team of staffers and volunteers were amazed to watch the project take off so quickly.
"As someone who is a fan of Schitt's Creek, I am not surprised that the $500 goal was way too conservative, but I could not have imagined that it would surpass $10,000 with so many supporters from across the world," they said. "As a small organization, the money is such a nice gift for us to keep moving and doing the work we do."
Levy told PRIDE he was very moved to see people rallying together to do good in honor of his birthday. "To watch the fundraising goal climb from $500 to over $11,000 has been humbling, and a reminder that there is a LOT of good going on out there in spite of all the bad. This is without a doubt the most meaningful birthday gift I've ever received."
He added, "We have the greatest fans who have made it their mission to spread the message of our show—that love and acceptance will always be the better way to go. At the risk of sounding overly sentimental, I love our fans very much and am continually inspired by their goodness."
Schitt's Creek has supported LGBT Youth Line in the past, choosing them along with The Trevor Project to receive the proceeds from a cover of Tina Turner's "Simply the Best" on iTunes, performed by Noah Reid in Season 4.
"I think crisis hotlines are invaluable resources to the community," Levy said. "Both [organizations] have been doing incredible work to save and change the lives of people who are in need of a lifeline, and I want to do whatever I can to ensure that those resources never go away."
Scroll down for our interview with LGBT Youth Line to find out more about their work in Ontario, and how your donations will help young queer people in rural and indigenous communities.
\u201cThis is mind blowing! Thank you to the fandom of #schittscreek for believing in us and the work that we do. You can still donate and support us in helping #queer and #trans Ontario youth all year round - head to : https://t.co/R7TR5v2sC1\u201d— LGBT YouthLine (@LGBT YouthLine) 1565107272
PRIDE: We tend to cover large LGBTQ organizations based in Los Angeles and New York, like GLAAD or the Trevor Project. For a small organization in Ontario, what are some of the unique challenges that this campaign will help you address?
Berkha Gupta: When people think of Ontario, they think of Toronto, which obviously is one of the homes of most of the queer people in the country. But because our work is phone/chat/text, a lot of the work we do as an organization reaches youth in more rural and suburban areas which don't have any LGBTQ spaces.
We're an organization of only four people as a staff, and completely volunteer-driven on the front lines. So what this money allows us to do is increase our outreach efforts and make sure more youth know about us. We can get out into more schools and attend more Pride events during the season.
Dan Levy supported you last year with proceeds from the "Simply the Best" cover on iTunes. What impact did that have?
Yes, all proceeds in Canada went to us, and all proceeds from the States went to The Trevor Project. That brought us up in visibility quite a bit, and what it generated was this whole understanding and relationship with fans. This fundraiser is one of the pieces that you're seeing, but over the last year, staff of CBC for Schitt's Creek have made a donation to us. Random Schitt's Creek fan clubs have come to us saying, "We ran a party, here's some money." And while the amounts can be small, it's really exciting and fun to see people keep going with this.
Again, as someone who watches Schitt's Creek, it's not surprising to me that people resonate with Dan Levy's character on the show so strongly. It's definitely one of those shows with a cult following. And the show has only become big in the States for the last year or so, but here in Canada we've been in love with it from day one.
We generally use LGBTQ as a blanket term for the community—your organization makes a point of using 2SLGBTQ, for two-spirit. Why was that important for you to include?
Thanks for asking that, because it's something that's more recent for us. When we did our strategic planning process two years ago, [we decided] as an organization we have a continued commitment to make sure we support two-spirit communities—but also to recognize our role in Canada as a colonized country, making sure that we're working towards indigenous rights and thinking about the Truth and Reconciliation report in Canada.
We wanted to make sure we put two-spirit people first, it's really that simple. Often they're the add-on at the end, or they're not even added. But two-spirit folks have been on this land before most of us, any of us settlers at least. For us it was a move to recognize the long history that two-spirit communities have had on this land.
It definitely generates conversations for us, too. We have two projects right now that are outside of urban centers, and it comes up all the time. People are like, 'What's the 2S for? Why is it first?' Those conversations on their own are such educational pieces.
What kind of support do indigenous youth need that might be specific to them?
I feel like a lot of times in LGBTQ narratives, indigenous communities are left out. [There's] an added layer of the fact that they are indigenous to this land and they face colonization. Because we work across Ontario, two-spirit youth could be on reserves and in communities where they're actually fighting for safe water and land access.
There's been so much erasure of two-spirit and indigenous history in general in Canada, and I would say in the States as well. A lot of the work is to connect with elders and recognize that there is a rich history of sexual and gender diversity in indigenous communities that might not always be obvious to young people.