The non-profit, non-partisan organization will be hosting five wounded soldiers -- one from each branch of the military -- and five established designers from all over the country in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The two groups will meet for the first time this June and will collaborate in an attempt to share each of the wounded soldiers' powerful stories through graphic design.
The result of this special collaboration will be special edition T-shirts printed by Chicago-based T-shirt company, Threadless. These shirts will be a part of a small collection that will produced, sold and distributed on Threadless.com.
These wearable works of art will be revealed for the first time and sold in mid-September at a special exhibit during the world's largest open art competition, ArtPrize. The competition transforms a three-mile area of downtown Grand Rapids into an art exhibit showcasing over 1,000 artists from around the world. Visitors are given the chance to vote for their favorite piece and, in the past, the first place winner received $250,000. It brings over 200,000 visitors to Grand Rapids over the course of the event.
In addition to creating graphic T-shirts, the heroes will also work directly with product developers from Bates, a Wolverine Worldwide, Inc. footwear brand. Bates is the largest supplier of military footwear, which each of the five heroes wore while bravely serving. The heroes will have the opportunity to work alongside the Bates team to create a custom pair of military boots. Their final creations will be a part of the ArtPrize exhibit. Following the five individual shoe designs, Bates will collaborate with all five heroes to create one Limited Edition boot that will be available for consumers to purchase.
The Hero + Designer Teams:
Team Air Force
Hero: Tech Sergeant Israel Del Toro
Over 80% of Del Toro's body was severely burned after a roadside bomb hit his Humvee while serving in Afghanistan.
Del Toro was told by doctors that he had nearly died three times while unconscious in the hospital. He was also told that he would likely never walk again or breathe without the use of a respirator. He was devastated. Doctors gave him a 20% chance of survival.
Against all odds, Del Toro embarked on a four-year mission to prove to his superiors that he could still serve his country. He was out of the hospital in less than three months and began campaigning for re-enlistment in the Air Force, making him the first 100% combat-disabled Air Force technician to re-enlist.
Artist: Phil Jones
Phil Jones is a graphic designer/Art Director in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He has designed numerous Threadless T-shirts in the past and has worked on creative projects for Subaru, Animal Humane Society, Miracle Grow, Save the Children, in addition to many other brands and organizations.
Hero: Army Specialist Danielle Byrd
Byrd was born and raised in a South Side Chicago neighborhood. Throughout her childhood, she learned to love the game of basketball.
The "South Paw" shooting guard earned basketball and academic scholarships to the University of Notre Dame, where she graduated in 1999 with a degree in Psychology.
After graduation, she followed the call of another childhood dream -- to serve her country. While on duty, a rocket-propelled grenade hit her dominant arm. Specialist Byrd returned to the United States to begin her recovery where she was plagued with self-doubt. She often would ask herself, "Why am I even here?"
Athletics and academics continued to be her escape. She earned two Master's Degrees, ran a race New York City, and learned to ski, fish, golf and play racquetball.
Danielle is serving her country again, this time through psychological social services offered to Veterans and their families in their transition from military to civilian life.
Artist: Chuck Anderson
Chuck Anderson is an artist/designer in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He started his studio, NoPattern, within months of graduating high school in 2003. Since then, Anderson has worked for international brands and agencies such as Microsoft, Under Armour, Nike, Target, Reebok, ESPN and more. He is best known for his use of intense, vibrant light and unexpected color as well as his often chaotic illustration style.
Team Coast Guard
Hero: Electrician's Mate Third Class Michael Bell
While stationed at U.S. Coast Guard Sector, EM3 Bell suffered a massive stroke, rendering his entire right side paralyzed. He spent 18 months at the Rehabilitation Institute of St. Louis relearning how to walk, talk, eat and other daily activities that are often taken for granted.
Before his stroke, Bell was a strong athlete holding many fitness records within his unit, a part of the cycling racing team, and a Varsity wrestler.
Through his rehabilitation process, Bell grew passionate about helping others and was inspired by his doctors and therapists. He is currently attending East Central College and hopes to attain a Master's Degree in Rehabilitation Counseling.
He is also training alongside his father and friends to participate in the Warrior Games and other cycling fundraiser events.
Artist: Seth Herman
Seth Herman is a multi-disciplinary designer living in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His career in the design industry started while in high school at a newspaper in 1999. In 2010, Herman left his Creative Director position at Dot&Cross to pursue an independent design career. His clients range from local businesses to multinational corporations including Madcap Coffee Company, CaseMate and Reebok. His portfolio encompasses identity design, retail display, product, packaging, advertisements, books, film, web and interactive media.
Hero: Corporal Josh Hoffman
A sniper's bullet in his spine left CPL Hoffman paralyzed from the neck down and unable to eat or speak. Years after his injury in 2007, he continued to battle for his life on a daily basis.
After meeting CPL Hoffman at a local veterans event, [FHH] knew there was something that could be done to improve this hero's day-to-day life. Previously routined with doctor appointments and physical therapy, [FHH] began to work one-on-one with CPL Hoffman to creatively explore his life and his story.
Through utilizing his interests and passions from both before and after the injury, CPL Hoffman and the [FHH] creative team came up graphic designs that shared his inspirational story.
Third-party partners enlisted their capabilities by creating products based around the resulting designs, which have since been sold around the United States.
The work with CPL Hoffman is the inspiration behind the wounded hero design initiative. Thus it is titled, the Corporal Hoffman Series.
Artist: Tyler Way
Yup, that's me. I have the privilege and honor to work with CPL Hoffman again. The first design we created together, "Total Sacrifice," has already been selling across the United States thanks to the help of MMA Warehouse.com and Ranger Up.
I look forward to sharing another part of CPL Hoffman's story with this next graphic T-shirt design we'll be creating together.
Hero: HN Darrell Butler
HN Butler was recognized with a Purple Heart medal after gunshot wounds severely damaged his lower right leg while on patrol with Combat Logistics Battalion Eight in the Southern Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
Butler was a superior athlete before his injury, and he set lofty goals to not only be able to walk without the assistance of a cane, but to be able to run again.
His passion, persistence and positive mindset to overcome his obstacles are life lessons in themselves.
Artist: Priscilla Wilson
Priscilla Wilson is a graphic designer on the beautiful central coast of California. She works for the design firm, Kraftwerk Design, which specializes in the wine industry. In addition to accepting freelance projects, Wilson has also designed numerous T-shirts for Threadless.
Throughout the project, [Fashion Has Heart] will release images, videos, and updates on their website, www.fashionhasheart.org.