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Vancouver Whitecaps, Aquarium team up with face mask fundraiser

Vancouver Whitecaps help Vancouver Aquarium raise funds with stylish masks
The Vancouver Whitecaps are raising money for the embattled Vancouver Aquarium by selling masks featuring Whitecaps and aquarium images. Linda Aylesworth reports.

One of Vancouver’s premier sports clubs is teaming up with the Vancouver Aquarium to help the beleaguered institution stave off bankruptcy during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The Vancouver Whitecaps have partnered with the aquarium to sell non-medical masks bearing both organization’s logos, with proceeds going to the cash-starved facility.

READ MORE: Donors raise $625K in a week after Vancouver Aquarium warns it could go bankrupt

The Aquarium was forced to shut its doors on March 17 due to COVID-19, and despite laying off more than half of its staff, still needs about $1 million per month to stay afloat.

“I said you know what, we can help here, we can really lend the muscle that [a] sports team has,” said Whitecaps CEO Mark Pannes.
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“I reached out to a supplier and just asked if it was possible to create face masks.”

That supplier is Alliance Mercantile, a company that usually makes uniforms and promotional merchandise for corporations like McDonald’s and Coca Cola.

The initiative has been a lifeline for his company, too.

READ MORE: Vancouver Aquarium faces bankruptcy amid coronavirus shutdown

“We thought we would have to lay off all of our employees; we only had enough business to continue for at least one month,” said CEO Mark Trotzuk.

The masks, which cost about $20, come in a variety of designs ranging from straight logos to jellyfish to a kid-friendly version with the Whitecaps’ mascot and a cartoon otter.

“We have enough fabric to make half a million to a million masks,” said Trotzuk.

They may need it — by late Friday, consumers had snapped up about 7,500 of them.

Lasse Gustavsson, president and CEO of the Ocean Wise Conservation Association, which operates the aquarium, said the masks will both help save the facility and prevent the transmission of COVID-19.

“This is a super creative initiative from the Whitecaps, and as I said we’re grateful,” he said.

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“Right now we’re focused on getting those masks out to as many people as possible.”

Health officials say that non-medical masks won’t protect individuals from COVID-19, but can help stop people who have the virus from spreading it.

READ MORE: Wearing non-medical masks will help others but not you, Tam says

The institution has so far managed to raise about $625,000 from donors, and Gustavsson said he hopes Ocean Wise can reach a funding deal with the provincial government as well.

The masks can be purchased on either the Vancouver Aquarium or the Vancouver Whitecaps websites.

-With files from Linda Aylesworth