TORONTO — Fans of the massively popular Canadian comedy “Schitt’s Creek” have raised more than $20,000 for a LGBTQ youth support group in honour of co-creator Dan Levy’s birthday.
The actor, who created the show with his father, Eugene Levy, turned 36 on Friday, and posted about the fundraiser for Ontario’s LGBT Youth Line on his social media channels.
On Saturday, Levy thanked the donors in a video: “You are changing lives, you are saving lives and you are helping young people in crisis. This was a birthday present I could have never imagined and it will go down as one of the greatest gifts I have ever been given, and I can’t thank you enough for your empathy and your generosity.”
“Schitt’s Creek” is about a wealthy family who lose their fortune and are forced to move to their only remaining asset: the small town of Schitt’s Creek. They move into the town’s motel, and begin to adjust to their new lives, all the while making connections with the residents of their new community.
The show has been lauded for its portrayal of pansexuality, through Levy’s character, David Rose, as well as the way his sexuality is accepted and presented in the storyline, with a focus on love and connection and no storylines involving homophobia.
Story continues after video:
HuffPost Canada spoke with the fundraiser’s lead organizer, Bea Edwards, to find out what inspired the campaign.
The 35-year-old, who lives in Indiana and works in social media, said her experiences working with political campaigns and non-profits helped her get the campaign off the ground. She reached out to a large group of fellow fans and suggested a fundraiser as a tangible way to thank Levy.
“The last day of filming of the last season of the show, we were all like, ‘This is sad but it’s happy. What can we do to give something back to this cast and especially to Dan to show them how much they’d given to us?’ And so we talked a little bit about his birthday… and I was like, ‘Listen, messages are awesome and great, we should do those, but what if we actually gave back to an organization that he really cares about?’”
She said organizing it was easy with help from the platform CanadaHelps.org, which sends all funds to non-profits directly. The initial goal was a mere $500, because the organizers didn’t want to get too ambitious.
“We launched it six weeks before his birthday thinking, ‘Oh, it’ll take a lot of time. We’ll just test this out’ and then in less than two days we had $3,000 already,” Edwards said.
She also said reading all the “heartwarming and lovely” messages from people who donated to the campaign was amazing.
“People that watch the show take the show and its message to heart... Dan has said kindness always wins… This is people living that value in action.”
LGBT Youth Line has been providing peer support and leadership opportunities for 2SLGBTQ youth across Ontario for 25 years.
Berkha Gupta, Youth Line’s executive director, told HuffPost Canada they knew the fundraiser would do well because of the show’s popularity.
Money will go towards outreach in rural regions
“I’m a fan of ‘Schitt’s Creek’ myself and love Dan’s character so when they first set their $500 fundraising goal, I knew it was going to go well beyond that, just knowing the show’s reach. But I couldn’t have imagined it to go up above $20,000 like it did.”
Since Youth Line is a small organization, Gupta noted that the money would go a long way in helping queer youth across the province.
Gupta said the donations would be put towards serving more regions in Ontario and increasing their outreach in rural and suburban northern Ontario communities.
“We know we’re needed more [in those areas] because those youth often have nowhere to go to and so as an online service and a support service, we’re able to better our work to reach youth in those regions so they know we exist,” they said.
While hoards of fans donated to the birthday fundraiser, Levy’s castmates pitched in too. Catherine O’Hara, who plays Levy’s mother, Moira, on the show donated $265, and another donation was posted under the name Noah Reid, the actor who plays Levy’s on-screen fiancé.
This isn’t the first time “Schitt’s Creek” fans have supported LGBT Youth Line. The show released a cover of Tina Turner’s “Simply the Best” in season four, and sent all Canadian proceeds to the organization.
Both Edwards and Gupta made it clear that the show and the world Levy crafted has resonated with them on a personal level.
“This story of a family that comes together in a town that is accepting and loving of all of its numbers… and tells real love stories about real people no matter who they are,” Edwards said. “I come from a small town that I wish was like that.”
“I’ve been in queer community a long time and I will say that it’s a show that still brings me to tears,“said Gupta. “Even though we’re starting to see more and more queer representation in media, I would still say it’s one of the few, if not only characters I’ve seen where we’re seeing tenderness among men.
“They’re breaking the narratives that we’ve often seen in media that if it’s gay men, they must all have to be sleeping with each other and they must all only be about the sex.”
On Saturday, seven of the 11 organizers behind the fundraiser met up at at a “Schitt’s Creek” event in Detroit, where Levy took time to celebrate them for their campaign. Edwards said they hadn’t really known each other before the fundraiser but now consider each other the best of friends.
The fundraiser was launched on June 30 and will end on Aug. 14.
“Schitt’s Creek” airs on CBC in Canada, Pop TV in the U.S. and is also available on Netflix. Its fifth season was nominated for four Emmys, including Outstanding Comedy Series. Its upcoming sixth season will be its last.