VICTORIA -- What began as a physical distancing chat in their front yard between friends has turned into a T-shirt fundraising venture with two goals in mind. The first goal is to raise funds for the Rainbow Kitchen Society in Esquimalt and the second is to raise awareness and admiration for the amazing job that Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, is doing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Victoria residents Joanna Witham and Katharine McCallion came up with the idea. With the help of their friend, Mitch Hawes, they designed a Dr. Bonnie Henry t-shirt with 100 per cent of the proceeds going to the Rainbow Kitchen, a local charity that serves free daily meals and hosts community programs.

“Dr. Henry was – and still is – so calm, confident, clear, intelligent and kind,” said Witham in a statement.

“She is also an inspiration for females of all ages, showing us that we can achieve senior leadership positions – or any position for that matter – with hard work and determination.”

One shirt design depicts Dr. Henry's face in the style of the iconic Obama 'Hope' poster. Another depicts the simple but impactful phrase, 'Dr. Bonnie F*cking Henry.’

The expletive used on the shirt is 100 per cent positive, the designers say, and is utilized in a way to show how awesome they think Dr. Henry is.

“We've flipped the script on swears. They don't always have to have a negative connotation!” said Witham.

"We are facing a global health pandemic and it’s scary, but when you put on your Dr. Henry T, you channel her leadership prowess and the bravery and compassion of our countless health heroes," said Witham and McCallion.

The pair says the choice to have the Rainbow Kitchen as the benefitting charity was easy.

“They are an extremely mighty organization that supports the community in many ways, including daily hot lunches.”

The Rainbow Kitchen provides multiple programs, activities, support services and serves up to 100,000 nutritious meals a year.

The need is especially critical right now, during the pandemic, as many more people within the community are finding themselves using the Rainbow Kitchen’s services.

The Kitchen, located at 500 Admirals Rd. in Esquimalt, says its vision is to fill bellies and feed souls in the communities they serve.

Despite some challenges because of COVID-19, the Rainbow Kitchen remains open with revised protocols to protect its volunteers and patrons. Lunches can be picked up and eaten elsewhere between 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., Monday to Friday.

Children and families who may find themselves especially in need right now are encouraged to visit, says the kitchen.

“It’s been this unexpected, fun and exciting way to give back and be inspired by someone like Dr. Henry,” said McCallion.

“We never expected the response that we have received for the shirts,” said Witham. “It's amazing to have the community come together to show appreciation for our fearless leader and raise money for an amazing local organization.”

She also praises and is grateful for all the hard work that Health Minister Adrian Dix and his team have been doing behind the scenes. Adding, “Although Dr. Henry is the powerful female leader so many of us need right now, we know she is working with an outstanding team and we are so grateful for everyone involved.”

The T-shirts started selling online last month. The pair says that 150 shirts were sold in the first four days. To date, they have sold 255 Dr. Bonnie Henry shirts, raising roughly $4,000 for the Rainbow Kitchen.

"The team at the Rainbow Kitchen is over the moon with the generous donations generated by the sale of the fabulous Dr. Bonnie Henry T-shirts this month,” said Dylan Williams, front of house manager for the Rainbow Kitchen.

“The proceeds will allow us to serve over 1,300 meals in our community and keep our mission going."

The shirts arrived from the printers this week and are being prepared for delivery.

If you want to purchase a Dr. Henry T-shirt now, you should expect a bit of a wait. The popularity of the shirts caught the fundraising women off-guard and they need time to catch up with the orders they already have.

They are considering printing more if there is interest. The shirts are $30 for each individual design, or $35 if you want a shirt with a design on the front and back of the tee.

The shirts can be purchased online here

While there’s been no word on what Dr. Bonnie Henry thinks of the shirts and her rise to fame, both Witham and McCallion want her to know that she is an inspiration to them.