KEMPTVILLE, ONT. -- The sound of a single drum beating in unison with paddles hitting the water could be heard along the Creek of Kemptville. 

According to Orange Out Paddle organizer Craig McCormick, it was to show solidarity and raise awareness for the lives lost of Indigenous children and the families affected by Canada’s former residential school system.

"Just want to send a message that we are here and we are wearing our orange," said McCormick. "I’m really happy with the turnout."

About 75 people wearing orange shirts got into kayaks and canoes Saturday for the first annual Orange Out Paddle. This event comes ahead of Orange Shirt Day on Sept. 30.

"The schools for the last couple years, they’ve encouraged students to wear orange shirts on Sept. 30 but there wasn’t much attention drawn to it like this year,” said Barbara Smith, one of the participants.

She brought her children so they too would know the meaning behind the orange shirts.

"We went kayaking," said daughter Adella. "To honour the children who didn’t make it home."

The large gathering of great significance for Greg Meekis with the Odawa Native Friendship Centre.

"It’s not just my people wearing orange shirts," said Meekis.

The orange shirts worn by many during the paddle were designed by McCormick. The graphics included a dreamcatcher, a heart with wings and a message in Cree translated to "Never Forget."

By Saturday afternoon, nearly 350 t-shirt and hoodies had been purchased. The proceeds will be donated to the Odawa Native Friendship Centre.

"It’s a good reminder of the dark history we recently uncovered," said Meekis. "Hopefully, we can hopefully move on in a good way from this."