Jim Sheehan, a local husband, father and self-professed "artistic tech nerd," saw an opportunity to put his skills and passion to use locally and has formed a nonprofit organization called "theBuffaLoveshirt." He is shown with one of the T-shirts.
The limited-edition shirts are a fundraising mechanism for people in need. Those visiting Sheehan's website, www.thebuffaloveshirt.com, will have the chance to purchase his exclusive Buffalo-themed merchandise, with proceeds going straight to a fellow Western New Yorker in need. Donations also can be made electronically in any denomination to support those featured during his campaigns.
"Sometimes good, hardworking people get hit hard by life - maybe it's cancer, a house fire, an unexpected accident - you don't see it coming, then suddenly you are faced with the reality of 'How on earth am I going to deal with this?' " Sheehan said.
One of Sheehan's sponsors is Alan Hastings, owner of The Silo Restaurant.
"Fundraising is not something that always comes easy to people," Hastings said. "Many need the help, but don't feel right asking, or don't have the tech skills, time or emotional capacity to build a website, or a profile on a crowd-funding site while dealing with a tragedy. Sometimes they are just too overwrought to organize it all.
"Traditional benefits take a great deal of planning and logistics. Sometimes people want to help, but can't make it to a benefit event or basket auction. What Jim is doing is providing a way that anyone with Internet access can help - and in just seconds. By hosting the fundraising efforts and handling all the details, those in need can focus on family, and on getting through the difficulty they are facing.
"It's personal to Western New York, and a great way for the community to come together. I think everyone in the area is going to want one of these shirts."
A goal of $7,500 has been set for Sheehan's first campaign, which is currently underway. He is actively working to raise funds for Maya Serra, who is battling neuroblastoma, a rare childhood cancer. The campaign will run until the goal is met, or for a period of 30 days - whichever comes first.
Visit the www.thebuffaloveshirt.com to donate, become a sponsor or seek help for yourself or someone in need.