Detroit, Michigan-based distributor Corporate Specialties (PPAI 200872, D1) and actress Drew Barrymore helped The Detroit News raise more than $70,000 for the Rosa Parks Scholarship Foundation.

The story began when Barrymore wore a vintage t-shirt imprinted with “The Detroit News – The first good news of the day” in a story in the August issue of InStyle magazine, and inquiries about where the shirts could be purchased began rolling in to the news outlet.

“The minute the photo of Drew appeared on the InStyle Instagram page, I got a call from someone who saw it,” explains Aimie Rosner, marketing director at The Detroit News. “That shirt was given out to the staff in the early ’80s, and we hadn’t seen it since. We were very surprised and had no idea Drew would be wearing it! Two minutes in, I called Val [Valerie Hayman Sklar, president of Corporate Specialties]. This began the big scramble to recreate the shirt and figure out how we could sell it. We had to move quickly, as timing was everything. Val and her team jumped into action and made everything happen for us.”

Within 24 hours, Hayman Sklar had the online store operational and was working with suppliers to secure inventory, which wasn’t easy due to the supply chain disruptions because of COVID-19. Ultimately, four different vendors were used to get the stock needed to fulfill orders. Because the demand for these shirts was unknown, Hayman Sklar and Rosner decided to set up purchases as pre-orders so they could make the exact number of shirts, in the exact sizes, to meet the demand without having a lot of excess inventory so that the maximum amount of funds could be donated to charity.

Initially, around 20 shirts were ordered per hour. Then Barrymore took to Instagram to let her 13-plus million followers know the t-shirts were being made and the proceeds were being donated to the Rosa Parks Scholarship Foundation, which has awarded more than $2 million in scholarship money to more than 1,000 Michigan high school seniors who hold close to Mrs. Parks’ ideals while demonstrating academic skills, community involvement and economic need. Orders jumped to 100 per hour. Overall, more than 5,000 shirts were purchased through three rounds of pre-order sales and over $70,000 was raised for the Foundation.

“Being involved with this kind of project is special because of the impact you get to make on so many people,” says Hayman Sklar. “Not only were t-shirt recipients delighted but being able to help students with their educational aspirations is very gratifying. Being based in Detroit is a huge part of our company culture; it’s baked into our DNA. This project allowed us to combine our passion for promotional products with our love of Detroit. It’s definitely one of the highlights of 2020.”