Indy native creates benefit t-shirt campaign for Gatlinburg fire victims

Heart for the Smokies shirts

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Hundreds of homes and more than 50 businesses were destroyed in the wildfires that ripped through the Smoky Mountains early this month.

14 people lost their lives.

The city of Gatlinburg was one of the worst hit areas.

Many people lost their jobs after many businesses were destroyed in the fires.

One Indianapolis native is making a difference to those folks.

Derek Evans grew up in Indianapolis and went to Southport High School.

After he graduated from Anderson University he moved to Nashville, Tennessee to start his clothing company, Project 615.

Through his company, he’s been able to raise money for the Gatlinburg fire victims.

Recovery from the wildfires that tore through Gatlinburg and the surrounding region will take years.

In the meantime, Derek Evans wanted to do something to help those affected.

“Seeing somebody in your own state who’s lost family because of this wildfire really it’s a sad thing and you want to do anything you can to help these people,” he said.

His clothing company created “Heart for the Smokies” shirts and put them up for sale about a week ago.

“When we heard about the wildfires we were like this would be a perfect opportunity for us to use our platform to sell t-shirts and give 100 percent of the profits away to help the folks in Gatlinburg,” he said.

They didn’t have very high expectations, but were quickly blown away by the community’s response.

“When we saw a first order go in immediately, we’re like oh this is pretty cool, and then two hours later when we sold about 500, we knew that this had gone viral,” he said.

In ten days, they’ve sold thousands of shirts and raised more than $65,000 dollars.

“This has been, by far, the biggest campaign and fundraising effort that we’ve been able to do in the six and a half years that we’ve been in business,” he said.

All the profits will go into the Gatlinburg Relief Fund set up by the chamber of commerce.

“The Gatlinburg Chamber of Commerce is focusing on the 53 businesses that were ruined in the wildfires and really going to focus on the employees of those businesses,” he said.

The company is currently sold out of the “Heart for the Smokies” shirts, but will re-order in January.

You can check out the company for yourself by clicking here.