COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4) – What started as a small idea when the Waldo Canyon Fire was burning this summer is now making big money for victims.

Since the state’s most destructive fire burned 346 homes in June, communities across Colorado have been stepping up in many ways to help the victims of that fire and other recent ones. That includes a group of friends in Colorado Springs who designed a T-shirt that represents a symbol of hope and reason to smile.

Austin Buck co-owns a design company in the Springs and came up with an idea with a few of his buddies to create T-shirts that would be sold to raise money for relief efforts and victims’ assistance.

“You’re watching this tragedy happen and you feel helpless. We felt that if we banded together we could do something to make a difference,” Buck said.

Initially the group thought they would try to sell about 200 shirts.

“Within a half an hour we blew out those goals,” Buck said. “We were on the phone with each other like ‘What did we do?’ It happened quickly.”

They actually reached their goal sixty times over. In three days people ordered 12,000 shirts, raising more than $300,000.

Their small idea would eventually launch Wild Fire Tees, which has now become a globally-recognized company.

“These images — particularly this image which is our signature shirt — is sort of a symbol and emblem of solidarity. It’s a symbol of all the people who have come together. It’s a symbol of the evacuees who are recovering from this,” said Sara Derose, who also works for Wild Fire Tees.

Months later, that symbol continues to spread wildly. Thousands of orders are coming in from around the globe, including hundreds for those who battled the flames.

“We’ve had over 1,400 shirts purchased for firefighters,” Buck said. “We’re actually hand-delivering those and getting some stories from firefighters and shaking their hands.”

Derose said it has “made a huge difference” to hear from people who were individually impacted.

“We had a family from the High Park Fire tell us that one of the first things they were starting to replace was clothes and that these were the first shirts we bought to replace it,” Derose said.

“The biggest thing about making a difference is that community matters. When you build that community, you have the ability to make a difference.”

Insurance claims from the Waldo Canyon Fire were more than $350 million.

LINK: Wild Fire Tees


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