In response to the Thomas fire that swept through Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, one Cal Poly student set out to raise money for those who were affected. Art and design senior Blake Silva created a t-shirt design to raise money for the victims of the Thomas fire to lend a hand to his hometown.
“The goal was just to give somebody something they didn’t have before, and whether that was a little bit of money or a lot or somewhere in between, then it would be worth it for me,” Silva said.
Silva initially got the idea after a friend from middle school messaged him on Facebook around the time of the fire in Ventura telling him she was going to be selling some stickers for a SWAP meet to raise money for an organization. She asked if Silva would be willing to help design a sticker for it.
“Immediately I wanted to because it was for my hometown … I thought that it would be a fun little project, so I went for it and as I was designing, I came up with an idea,” he said.
As he was creating the logo, Silva said he was trying to incorporate the idea of the hashtags #VTAstrong and #bettertogether and wanted it to be something he felt had meaning.
“My first thought was, ‘Well, I would wear a t-shirt that had this on it,’” Silva said.
Silva said he wanted to find a cheap clothing printing option that would allow him to make money to donate. He ended up coming across Custom Inks Fundraising.
The company allows customers to submit a design and write about their cause. They have a minimum of 34 shirts that need to be sold in order to actually print the shirts.
“At first, I was kind [of] intimidated because I didn’t really know if it was going to be that successful to where I would actually see the benefit of it,” Silva said.
Silva’s fundraiser was live for three weeks and there was an option when people bought shirts to also donate to the cause directly as well.
Blake posted his success with the fundraiser on Instagram Feb. 8, announcing that he sold a total of 50 shirts, raising $474.
“I’m proud to use my talents to bless others as God blesses me daily. Thank you to everyone that supported me in this,” Silva wrote on Instagram.
After fundraising, Silva said he was unsure of what exactly to do with the money because although there are many incredible organizations to give to, it is hard to know where the money is going specifically, especially in the case of a natural disaster.
Silva said he chose to give the funds to a family that lost their home instead of an organization because he wanted to make it more personal.
Silva’s mother, Sherri Silva, was the interior designer for the family he donated to.
“My first thought was, ‘I’m so proud of him,’ because, I mean, he’s a college student. I know he was thinking, ‘I’m so broke and I want [to] do something.’ He has such a sensitive soul to him, so I was so proud because I thought, ‘Wow, he’s actually gonna do something to make a difference,’ and I was completely blown away,” Sherri said.
Sherri said the family was friends of the Silvas and contacted her asking if she could make some design touches to the temporary home in which they were staying to make it feel more personal.
“She sent me pictures of their previous home and I looked through those and tried to incorporate some things that were in that house that had been burnt down,” Sherri said.
After learning what her son had done for them, Sherri decided not to charge the family for her services.
“I was convinced, because I was thinking, ‘Well, my son’s giving them $400-something, and that’s a lot for a college kid.’ Any other person could have just pocketed half and said, ‘That’s all I made’ … I just thought, ‘You know what? I’m just not [going to] charge them at all; my son’s giving all of this, I can give all of my time, too,’” she said.
Sherri said the family felt so blessed by the whole thing, knowing what both she and her son had done for them.
“I think it inspired him, too, that in times of need and crisis, it doesn’t matter what your walk in life or your situation, there’s always a way that people can help, whether it’s time or money or prayer,” Sherri said.