SYDNEY, NS – Mayor Amanda McDougall had been a new Cape Breton Regional Municipality councilor for just a few months when she received much needed encouragement from an unexpected source: a personalized t-shirt designed by a young boy.
It was January 2017, and McDougall found herself embroiled in controversy after being chosen to serve on the Nova Scotia Solid Waste Resource Management Committee. However, several of her older male colleagues questioned her qualifications, citing McDougall’s age (she was 33 at the time) and her inexperience, despite the fact that she had previously managed projects. of solid waste while working for an environmental non-profit organization.
OLD BOYS CLUB
Many people – including McDougall herself – saw it as a glaring example of the so-called old boys club that picked one of the few women on the board.
“It turned out to be this huge public event,” recalled McDougall, who was shocked when, a few weeks later, she opened her mailbox and found a package containing a t-shirt with a design on it. of his horn-rimmed glasses and the words Amanda. McDougall for the mayor, as well as a handwritten note from the eight-year-old boy who designed it for her.
“I was so stunned. I was just overwhelmed by this young boy’s thoughtfulness and I guess the realization that the job I was doing as a counselor really touched people. It was very early in my first term so it meant so much to me.
McDougall wrote the boy – Dimitri Halliday, or Dee by the way – and ordered 25 of the shirts to jokingly give to family and friends for Christmas. She also made him a promise.
“I told him if I ever ran for town hall – which I wasn’t planning on doing – you would be my guy in a T-shirt.”
COLLECTION OF MONEY FOR AUTISM
McDougall may have changed her mind, but she kept her word.
When she decided to run for the highest elected office in CBRM, she reached out to Dee and ordered 200 of the shirts to use in her successful election campaign.
Dee’s mother Jen Halliday explained that her son started Dee’s Tees about four years ago to raise money for autism-related charities as his older brother Ciaran, 13, is on the spectrum. Dee comes up with the designs and she downloads the image to a computer and silkscreen the shirts at their home in Hopkinton, Mass., A suburb outside of Boston.
She said she had never met McDougall, but that they are originally from Cape Breton and moved from Boularderie two years ago after the transfer of her husband, Paul Halliday, a software engineer.
She said that when McDougall was put down by the older men on the board it struck a chord so she asked Dee to find something to cheer her up.
“She was a young woman and they were like, ‘Well, you can’t be on a waste committee – what do you know about waste?’ And she said, “I know all kinds of things, I’m probably more qualified than you.” I was really drawn to his attitude and we, jokingly, made an Amanda McDougall t-shirt for the mayor. Dee designed it and I sent it to her and she thought it was really cute and she wanted a few for her family so we made her a couple more. There you go, a few months ago, she contacted me via Facebook and asked me if Dee would make her t-shirts.
Dee revamped the original design to include the hashtag # MayorMcD2020 and Dee’s Tees was soon shipping their biggest order ever, and even sent a onesie version to McDougall, who is expecting their first child.
Halliday said Dee was “extremely humble and extremely shy” and didn’t like to take credit for the success of the jersey. But he always liked to “support causes and fight for what is right,” she said, noting that he also created shirts to support striking teachers and made signs for a protest that ‘they organized outside the offices of the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional Center for Education when cuts were made. to autism argues a few years ago.
He was also delighted to learn that a prominent politician liked his design, although he wasn’t sure exactly what position McDougall was running for.
“He was like ‘I can’t believe the president wants me to make him shirts’,” she said with a laugh. “I was like ‘It’s not the president, it’s the mayor’, so he doesn’t quite understand but he knows that she is important and that she was running for a very important position and that she thinks his designs are cool and that maybe one day we come back to Cape Breton he will visit town hall.
McDougall called Dee a “super cool, compassionate kid” who taught her a valuable lesson that she believes will serve her well as mayor.
“An eight-year-old understood what was going on. An eight-year-old realized that a woman was being abused and unfairly treated and didn’t think it was fair, ”she said. “That’s the strength of it – the children, our youth, everyone – it’s not just the voters that it’s important to listen to. This job means you have to listen to everyone around you because they are listening to you.
To see more of Dee’s T-shirts (including his latest design, which says This Year Sucks. Stupid COVID), visit Dee’s Tees Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/deestees2016/.