WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Many local businesses facing COVID-19 related restrictions are caught up in a serious struggle.

They need to generate some cash flow despite the limitations. A local business has come up with a way to help. That business is AxelRad Screen Printing, which has been around for nearly two decades, making all kinds of creative T-shirts and other merchandise. Since it benefited through the years because of community support, it came up with a coronavirus crisis fundraiser to pay it forward.

AxelRad graphic designer Tyler Rice had an idea to help small businesses hampered by state rules to slow the spread of COVID-19: a T-shirt selling fundraiser called The Shirt Off Our Backs. The shirts sell for $15 apiece and participating businesses keep all of the proceeds.

“Local business is so important that it would be crazy for us to just let everyone kind of close up shop because of something that’s out of our hands,” Rice said.

Screen-printed shirts has been AxelRad’s forte since 2003. For this coronavirus crisis fundraiser, Rice planned to design a generic T-shirt but then he did more brainstorming to make those shirts a custom fit.

“I actually ended up changing that so that it was more of a community-based idea where people can showcase their businesses specifically,” Rice said.

“Social distancing is like a 7-10 split,” Chacko’s Family Bowling Center Marketing & Event Manager Kara Hodorowski said.

Chacko’s Family Bowling Center in Wilkes-Barre is among the participating businesses. Since the lanes have been idled since mid March, it had a shirt designed that reflects that.

“We wanted to come up with something that would relate to what we’re going through right now obviously, not just a regular standard logo, something limited edition,” Hodorowski said.

Kingston-based pet grooming business Wags To Riches chose a tee shirt design of a dog wearing a top hat. Its owner hopes people are inspired to purchase her pooch-themed apparel.

“It’s tough. I mean it just seems that small businesses like us, we have not seen one dollar yet. No stimulus,” owner Heather Blanchard said.

AxelRad started this T-shirt movement with modest goals but the response…

“It’s honestly insane. I started with 15 businesses with a goal of $10,000 which I thought was insane. I’m at I think 250 businesses right now,” Rice said.

And by the end of April, The Shirt Off Our Backs movement topped $60,000 raised.

“It’s just wonderful that they are doing that for everybody, you know. It’s really, really nice. It’s a help,” Blanchard said.

Rice said his goal is to keep The Shirt Off Our Backs fundraiser up and running until the state’s stay at home order is lifted.

Click here for more information on ordering shirts.