VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — As the May 31 tragedy at the Municipal Center in Virginia Beach unfolded, Kim O’Connor knew she had to do something.
For years, O’Connor has operated her own business, Blackwater Custom Apparel. She soon came up with a simple idea. She began designing a VB Strong T-Shirt. All proceeds would go to the Virginia Beach Tragedy Fund.
“I wanted a powerful image on the back, and I thought King Neptune’s statue symbolizes the power and strength of a community, but also brings it home with it being in Virginia Beach, explained O’Connor.
She posted the shirts online Sunday night and the orders began pouring in.
“I was just watching the numbers climb and climb and climb, and I had 200 orders within probably four hours. Which you know isn’t a lot, but when it’s just one person taking the order, printing the order, packaging the order, shipping the orders and delivering the orders, suddenly you’re like ‘oh boy, I’m glad that it happened, but what did I get myself into?'”
So far she has sold about 1,200 shirts, raising nearly $17,000. She sent every penny to help those who need it most right now.
“Their lives were changed in an instant. Their family member went to work one day in a job where you never would have thought the possibility of them not coming home would ever cross your mind. You know these families they’re going to have half the income now. And that’s not going to go away. They’re going to always have that deficit.”
She sells a lot of shirts locally, but has shipped some as far away as California.
“I am blown away. I never in my wildest dreams imagined that I would have been able to do something that big.”
O’Connor says the orders keep coming as people process how to move forward and how to help their community. You can visit Blackwater’s website here. To donate directly to the Virginia Beach Tragedy Fund, click here.