CHICAGO — Motivated by a goal of their organization along with a connection to their founder, a Chicago company is doing what it can to support Damar Hamlin.
So far, that effort has produced results.
On Tuesday afternoon, Obvious Shirts began to sell both a short-sleeve t-shirt along with a hooded sweatshirt to raise money for the Bills safety’s foundation. In that time, fans have purchased just under 1,000 shirts, raising over $15,500 dollars as of Friday. The money has gone to the GoFundMe for the “The Chasing M’s Foundation.”
“The outpouring with the amount of comments and the shares and the people in “Bills Mafia” picking it up and resharing it, it was just really, really cool and heartwarming to see fans of all teams and all leagues coming together,” said company founder Joe Johnson to WGN News Now on Friday.
The inspiration for the effort is two-fold and it started late Monday night and early Tuesday after Hamlin suffered the cardiac arrest on a hit in the first quarter against the Bengals. The sight of athletic trainers performing CPR on the safety on the turf at Paycor Stadium hit home for Johnson, who has suffered from his own heart issues in his life.
He suffered from Kawasaki Syndrome at age three and age five.
“Up until the age of 14, I had to wear a heart-guard chest protector just to play baseball and I couldn’t play football or basketball, I wasn’t allowed to until high school,” Johnson said. “It really resonated when more information came out that this hit home for me. I really wanted to do something. T-shirts are a great vehicle for that, to raise awareness, to raise funds, so I thought of a few different ideas that night. I couldn’t go to bed. The whole injury really bothered me and I was up until two in the morning thinking I should probably do something, I want to do something.”
Johnson created the design for the shirt quickly – which features a Bills’ royal blue color, a buffalo with “Damar” written in the middle and Hamlin’s No. 3 inside a heart on the sleeve. With the help of a few others in the Chicago area, the shirts went on sale Tuesday afternoon and strong sales followed after that.
This continues an effort by Obvious Shirts to find ways to fundraise for charitable efforts in Chicago area and outside of it when needed. They’ve created shirts to raise money for Steve McMichael as he battles ALS along and to benefit the son of late ESPN reporter Jeff Dickerson, who died in December 2021.
“This whole company becoming what it’s become, it was never part of the plan. The minute I realized we had something here, I made it my mission to give back, to donate, to use the shirts as a vehicle, a means to give to people less fortunate or people in need, people who have a traumatic injury like that,” Johnson said. “Giving back and charitable work here at Obvious Shirts is the most important thing because we really aim to build a community. That’s what we’re after, the charity piece of that because, in my opinion, it’s the most rewarding and the most important.”
It’s one that was inspired by a number of things to contribute to a nationwide effort to aid a football player in need.