Huron freshman’s T-shirts bring hope, dollars to friends in Japan

Sale of shirts spreads to other schools, raises more

By Emily Hsiao
AAPSNews Service

When Huron High School freshman Andy Hsiao heard about the Japan earthquake and tsunami two months ago, he had a different reaction from many people. Instead of fear and desperation for the people of Japan, he had ideas about how he could help.

Huron High School students wearing the T-shirts of hope: Katie Yeatts, Mariam Souweidane, Jack Petersen, Tanner Ward, Gary Huang, Alex Weigel, Kevin Mei, Owen Veeser and Andy Hsiao. (Courtesy, Kevin Masini)

Hsiao, who has friends and family in Tokyo, immediately turned to them for advice: “What do you need? What do the people in Sendai need?” His sister emailed Rotary clubs in both Tokyo and Sendai, an area devastated by the tsunami, asking them what foreigners specifically could do to help.

Pioneer message of hope
Pioneer's student council holding up their message of hope "Go Japan!" to the victims of Sendai and other afflicted areas. (Courtesy, Pioneer High School Student Council)

Tokyo replied with a project sending messages of hope over Twitter to victims and Sendai – just a month ago – confirmed that what they need is not blankets, first-aid kits, or food, but funding.

His T-shirts are in Japanese. They read, “Ganbare, Nihon!” which roughly translates into “Fight on, Japan!” Ascott Printing in Ann Arbor printed the shirts locally at a discount.  The goal of the T-shirts, according to Hsiao, was to not only benefit Japan through funding, but also show the Japanese how much people here in the United States are supporting them.

The shirts were marketed through social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter and caught the attention of students at Huron, Pioneer, Community and Skyline high schools and alumni. He even got a few orders from Arizona, Tokyo, Florida and Okemos.

Soon, the T-shirts became a community effort throughout Ann Arbor. Daniel Huang, Aaron Brodkey, Emily Gucwa, Danny Langa, Stephanie Liu, Hoai An Pham, Ben Walsh, Gary Huang and Davis West were among the first who volunteered to pitch in. Each of them, in turn, recruited more students to help. In the next two months, the Pioneer Student Council and students from Huron, Skyline, and Community sold T-shirts at each of their respective schools.

The navy-colored T-shirts were spotted frequently around town. Students immediately wore them to school, encouraged friends to buy them, and even bought extras for siblings and friends. Those who did not want a T-shirt donated their money towards the cause.

“It’s great to see how much people care about the Japan and the citizens of Japan,” says Hsiao. “It’s especially great that the entire community volunteered to not only buy, but help sell and spread the word. Even when the economy is down, people are still willing to help those in need.”

In all Ann Arbor high schools, 443 shirts have been sold so far, raising $2,436.50. One hundred percent of the profits from Hsiao’s T-shirts will go to the Rotary Japan Disaster Recovery Fund, which will then be allocated to Rotary clubs in afflicted areas. Each individual community will use the money as they see fit to rebuild their lives.

Pioneer and Huron students also sent in photos of themselves with their “messages of hope” to Japan via Tokyo’s Twitter project.

Hsiao’s T-shirt fundraiser was one of the many community efforts Ann Arbor college and high school students put together for victims of the Japan disaster. Huron High School student Kaily Daida encouraged students to buy and fold thousands of paper cranes, Eastern Michigan University students Christine Gallarin and Joanna Rew designed their own T-shirts of hope, and University of Michigan students put together fundraiser after fundraiser to gather as much funding as possible. The profits from their efforts went to the Japanese Red Cross.

Anyone interested in purchasing a T-shirt can contact Andy Hsiao via e-mail at He is doing a third and final order of the shirts.

Emily Hsiao is a 2009 graduate of Huron High School and attends the University of Pennsylvania where she is studying in the Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business at the Wharton School. Hsiao was active in the Rotary Interact Club at Huron and has continued her relationship with Rotary both here and abroad, which is how the family connected with the Rotary Fund for Japan. Andy Hsiao is her brother.

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