Sophomore's 'Restore the Shore' t-shirt design spurs huge Hurricane Sandy relief initiative

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A design sophomore Derek Koch created in his apartment at Rowan University has garnered worldwide attention—and helped raise more than $300,000 thus far for victims of Hurricane Sandy.

It’s just crazy, Derek Koch says, “how a simple design, a simple graphic, and a couple of words…can really get people going.”

Koch should know. A graphic he created in a couple of hours in his apartment at the Whitney Center at Rowan University to support Jersey Shore victims of Hurricane Sandy has garnered worldwide attention—and led to an extraordinary chain of events that already has raised more than $300,000 thus far for relief efforts. The effort promises to raise much, much more.

On Halloween night, as New Jerseyans began to realize the devastation left by Hurricane Sandy, Koch, an art major with a specialization in graphic design, fiddled around on his computer. Just after midnight, he created what he calls a “simple” graphic that he hoped to put on a few t-shirts and sell to Rowan students as a way to raise money for hurricane victims.

Koch’s effort is just one in a number of relief efforts undertaken by Rowan students, faculty and staff to assist hurricane victims. For information on all of the efforts—known as Rowan Relief—visit www.facebook.com/rowanrelief.

The “Restore the Shore” graphic created by Koch shows a silhouette of the state and a silhouette of the now-destroyed roller coaster on Seaside Heights, with the international hurricane symbol serving as the “S” in the word “restore.”

A Jersey Shore-loving surfer

“I’m a big stickler for creating something and then going back again and again to tweak it,” says Koch, a Jersey Shore-loving surfer who grew up in Brick and attended Monsignor Donavon High School in Toms River. “But with this, I thought I hit the nail on the head the first time.

“I posted it harmlessly to Facebook,” he continued. “I thought maybe I’d print a couple of hundred t-shirts and sell them to my friends from a box at Rowan.”

Instead, the graphic went viral, reaching an estimated 400,000 people through social media in just a few hours. Koch’s hometown friend, Travis LeBar, a 2012 history graduate of East Stroudsburg University, set up a “Restore the Shore” Facebook page. In a day, it received 20,000 “likes.” It now has more than 36,000.

While the design and the social media site were popular, Koch knew he needed help to make his real goal—raising money for relief efforts through t-shirt sales—a reality.

“I was so overwhelmed. Travis and I said, ‘What do we do now? There’s no backing out now.’”

Koch went to his bosses at ERGO clothing, where he had interned as a designer over the summer, and asked them if they would help.

$300,000 for shore relief efforts…thus far

ERGO co-founder Pete DiSpirito was on board immediately. In a little more than week, ERGO, a company founded in 2005, has taken orders for more than 10,000 “Restore the Shore” t-shirts from customers nationally and even internationally. Thus far, they’ve raised more than $300,000 for shore relief efforts…with more on the way.

“Restore the Shore” is now “Restore the Shore Projects” and, next week, ERGO will present a check for $100,000 to Waves for Water, a non-profit organization founded by surfers that is providing shore relief efforts. Waves for Water, which works to provide clean water in communities around the world, launched its Hurricane Sandy Relief Initiative to provide survival items and debris removal to east coast communities affected by Sandy.

ERGO is selling t-shirts emblazoned with Koch’s design for $22. A full $15 goes to relief efforts. The rest covers the t-shirts and the manpower needed to print and ship the shirts. Information can be found at facebook.com/restoretheshoreprojects.

“We’re not making a single dime,” says Koch, who began working at ERGO as an unpaid intern last summer and promptly turned it into a full-time paid gig after impressing DiSpirito with his talents.

Support from corporations

Large corporations are joining ERGO in its efforts. Comcast donated 6,600 free commercial spots to publicize their viral video campaign (http://vimeo.com/53052432). Freehold Mall donated a $20,000 booth to sell t-shirts on Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year. And the Lakewood Blue Claws and Atlantic Physical Therapy have set a goal to raise $1 million through “Restore the Shore” Fridays. Through Memorial Day, employees who wear their shirts to work will donate at least $1 to relief efforts and their companies will match their donations.

Additionally, donations of supplies—clothing, shoes, jackets, toiletries, clean-up supplies—are pouring into the ERGO warehouse in Lakewood and are being distributed “right into the victims’ hands,” DiSpirito says.

“We’re taking it all right to the people.”

Koch is admittedly dazed by the way his idea has taken off. But he’s also genuinely pleased. He realizes the Jersey Shore—its memories, its magic—resonates with so many people. And he’s thrilled that the power of his art, his own creation, is working to help bring people together.

“We sold $100,000 in t-shirts in the first couple of hours,” says Koch. “It was ridiculous. Travis and I were just two college kids who live at the shore and were trying to do a good thing. Everyone wants their beaches saved.”

As a Central Jersey shore guy, Koch has taken some teasing about the slogan on his design. But the end justifies the means, the student in Rowan’s College of Communication & Creative Arts says.

“People who live at the shore call it ‘the beach.’ They don’t call it the ‘shore,’” Koch explains. “My friends were saying, ‘How do you live with yourself…calling it the ‘shore?’

“I said, ‘Listen, I swallowed my pride. I took one for team and called it the ‘shore.’’ I couldn’t find anything as catchy that rhymed with ‘beach.’”

 

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