July 23, 2016

Mostly sunny

Teens’ Blue Devil pride remembered in T-shirt

BRUNSWICK — A steady hum could be heard outside Bullseye Activewear and Promotions workshop Thursday as a screen-printing machine cranks out about 3,000 T-shirts a day to remember the Brunswick teenagers involved in a fatal crash early Sunday morning.

Within 24 hours of meeting with a Bullseye artist Monday, Miranda Flowers’ idea for a memorial T-shirt was being printed.

Brunswick High School student Elizabeth Bland, 18, left, helps her grandfather, David Bland, choose a size Thursday morning. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY MICHELLE SPREHE)

“I was just trying to get it so high school kids had something to remember these kids by and their legacy lived on,” Flowers said.

Flowers graduated from Brunswick High School just hours after Sunday’s car crash on Boston Road in Columbia Station that resulted in the deaths of seniors Jeffrey Chaya and Kevin Fox, both 18, and juniors Blake Bartchak, 17, and Lexi Poerner, 16. Junior Julia Romito, 17, was hospitalized at Southwest General Health Center and is now recovering at home.

The royal blue short-sleeved shirts read “Blue Devils on Earth, Angels Up Above” on the front and “Rest in Peace J. Chaya, K. Fox, L. Poerner and B. Bartchak. Forever in our hearts.”

The Blue Devil is the mascot of Brunswick Schools. The shirt, which has angel wings on the front and back, also features artwork of hands in prayer with “JR” next to them for Romito.

About 7,000 shirts have been sold so far, said Dawn Ruffner, Brunswick High teacher and activities coordinator. Ruffner added the school is in the process of working with Engelke Construction Solutions, of Brunswick, to build a memorial that will be erected in the middle of the high school courtyard, she said.

The shirts are purchased from Bullseye at a discounted price of $5 each and sold to the public for $15. The $10 profit goes into a fund that will be divided among the families of the four students who died, Ruffner said.

“We’ve been getting calls from across the country,” Flowers said about the shirts. “I can’t put into words how proud I am to be a Blue Devil.”

One order was from a person who used to live in the area but now resides in Japan, Flowers said.

Flowers’ cousin, Melissa Truce, a new Brunswick High graduate, helped Flowers decide to make the shirt and design it.

“With all the support, you can’t thank people enough for it,” Truce said.

Students, faculty and volunteers sold 2,500 shirts in less than an hour on Wednesday, Truce said. Shirts were on sale Thursday outside the high school’s east athletic office 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and several sizes were sold out within 50 minutes.

Bullseye Activewear Vice President James Heiser, of Strongsville, said with the combination of employees, family members and volunteers, the company has been working 15-hour days to produce the shirts. They’ve rescheduled some other T-shirt orders, but they still are meeting deadlines, he said.

“We have kids close to their (the students in the accident) age, so it was something we could do to help out,” Heiser said. “These are the types of things that are nice to be able to do.”

Heiser said everyone seems to be going the extra mile to help make the shirts — from his ink supplier delivering more ink at 8 p.m. Wednesday, to his father making a trip to Columbus on Wednesday to pick up 2,500 more blank shirts.

“A lot of people like to get behind this sort of thing,” Heiser said. “Nobody knew it was going to be this big.”

By today, the company will have completed a total of about 8,300 shirts, he said.

“I hope it’s helping the families and the community because that’s what we’re trying to do,” Heiser said.

He added that if Bullseye Activewear’s Facebook page receives 2,500 “likes,” the company will donate $2,500 to the families of the four who died.

To purchase a T-shirt online, people can visit www.angelsupabove.com, a website created by a Brunswick High graduate, Heiser said.

The shirts will be on sale again 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. today outside the east athletic office. Blue ribbons to wear as pins, in hair and to decorate car antennas also will be available for free, but a donation is encouraged.

Contact Michelle Sprehe at (330) 721-4048 or msprehe@medina-gazette.com.

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