When the Riverside Friends of the Fourth created the organization in order to raise funds to support the village Independence Day activities and entertainment, they experimented with a few different methods for raising funds – from direct asks through their website to GoFundMe campaigns.
T-shirt sales were also part of the mix, but it wasn’t until last year that they found the secret to success. Enlisting the talents of local tattoo artist Patrick Cornolo, the Friends of the Fourth offered up a colorful, psychedelic design featuring a dragonfly. The shirts flew off the shelf, raising about $6,000.
“In the past on The Fourth we’d still have most of the shirts,” said Joseph Ballerine, one of the Friends of the Fourth founders and now the village’s president. “Last year I only had about 50 left.”
Looks like this year there’s going to be another sales run.
Friends of the Fourth offered this year’s T-shirt for sale via their Facebook page on June 1. Sales had reached $1,050 within 24 hours.
The design and its message apparently has a lot to do with that. The light blue shirt’s design features the Riverside water tower rising from the center of a sunflower, with the colors recalling the flag of Ukraine.
“This year as I’ve been driving around Riverside, I’ve noticed a lot of sunflowers on doors and Ukrainian flags,” said Ballerine of the support here for the Ukrainian resistance against the invasion launched by Russia in February. “I came around to the idea that maybe this is something people are really passionate about.”
According to Ballerine, 10 percent of all proceeds from T-shirt sales will go to the Ukrainian Red Cross.
Ballerine once again reached out to Cornolo, with a pretty general request.
“I think my exact words were, ‘Can you do something along the lines of ‘We stand with Ukraine?’” Ballerine said.
Cornolo, who with his wife, Kelley, operates Speakeasy Custom Tattoo in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago, accepted the challenge.
“At first I had an idea of incorporating the Swinging Bridge or water tower and nature,” said Cornolo, a resident of Riverside since 2015. “Once Joe mentioned Ukraine – the sunflower is their symbol – that steered me into that direction.”
Cornolo said he designed the image on his iPad over about 10 hours.
“I love living here; it’s such a cool little town with so much to offer,” said Cornolo. “I got so many compliments last year [on the dragonfly design], that I was very stoked to do another.”
Like last year, said Cornolo, local craft brewery BuckleDown Brewing is considering using the design to make a label for a specialty beer that will be sold at Riverside Foods in conjunction with the village’s July 4 celebration.
The shirts, which come in both child and adult sizes in either Ukraine blue or black and white, are $25 each. You can order a T-shirt by visiting riverside-friends-of-the-fourth.cheddarup.com.