VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — 10 On Your Side is looking into viewer concerns that Walmart could be profiting from the tragedy in Virginia Beach.
A viewer sent us a picture of VB Strong T-shirts for sale at a Walmart near Town Center, just miles from where the mass shooting occurred.
Nowhere near the display is there any sign or information indicating profits or proceeds would go to the victims’ families — which greatly concerned shopper Kenna Given.
“It basically slapped me in the face as I walked in the door,” Given said. “I started looking, where’s the sign, where are the proceeds going?
She contacted Walmart’s corporate office, and so did 10 On Your Side.
We also reached out to the United Way of South Hampton Roads, which is overseeing the VB Strong fundraiser for victims’ families. Kelsey Mohring with the United Way says they haven’t heard anything from Walmart, and they won’t.
A representative from Walmart said the money is set to come from a company called Screen Gems.
“It kind of got twisted a little bit — yeah, that was probably my mistake,” said Screen Gems’ Bill Bannester. Screen Gems also made Boston Strong T-shirts.
As a Virginia Beach resident, Bannester wanted to help his neighbors in their time of need.
“You saw the shirts online and you could buy them for $20-$25 and $30, and I thought that’s insane when you can get them for 10 bucks and all the money goes to the victims.”
He approached Walmart, which agreed to give him the space to sell the shirts at no profit.
Bannester told us Screen Gems’ first check for $250 is in the mail — and the company will write a new check each week as shirts sell.
That is once they’re back on the rack. Walmart pulled the shirts until they can make signs that clearly communicate to customers where the money is going. The shirts were expected to go back up for sale at that Town Center Walmart on Thursday.
“The plan is to get it to the families as quickly as we possibly can,” Bannester said.
The VB Strong fundraising effort has now generated more than $3.5 million for the victims’ families. To more learn about the allocation process and to donate, click here.