‘26 Shirts’ pairs unique sportswear with helping those in need. Really, they’re changing the game.

One t-shirt at a time.

Sports and charity seem to naturally go together these days, with big-name organizations like the NFL pairing with big name charities like Susan G. Komen. And while the attention garnered (and money raised) by these partnerships is fantastic for noble causes worldwide, it sometimes seems that the sheer scale of things makes the results (and your personal involvement) difficult to recognize.

But what if you could see the change you were making in the world?

What if you could see the faces of the families you’ve helped when they were down? Or hear the stories of those in your community whose lives were changed for the better?

And what if you could do all this and still show some love for your favorite hometown teams?

That’s where 26 Shirts comes in.

The premise is simple: each shirt is available for two weeks (2 weeks a shirt, 26 weeks a year, hence the name) and is aimed towards helping a specific local charity, family, or cause.

$8 from every shirt purchased goes towards helping that window’s hand-selected people in need, who are highlighted on the site as well. This contributes to the company’s ideals of letting patrons see the faces of those they are helping, complete with photos, bios and even thank you videos from past recipients reaching back out.

As of October 27th, 2014, they had raised $50,745 for those in need—a number which only continues to rise as more and more are joining the cause—including professional athletes.

So what’s in it for you?

Well if it’s not enough to help someone out of the goodness of your frozen heart, the designs are crafted by talented local artists (who are also featured on the site) and are completely, 100% one-of-a-kind. Each design features some of your favorite local teams and athletes, complete with colorful phrases and inside jokes.

Past shirts have included Jim Schwartz in Jedi Pose, “May the Schwartz be with you,” Boobie Dixons, “It’s Boobie D,” to assist breast cancer patients, and the current Chicago design of “Duncan Teeth,” featuring the gap-toothed grin of the Blackhawks defenseman.

The greatest part about these designs is their originality. As any Chicago sports fan knows, it’s extremely disheartening to find an awesome sports tee only to see 12 other goons at the game wearing the same one. That, and the endless train that is professional sports gear is a merchandising monster that serves nothing but itself. Wearing one of these limited edition beauties helps a great cause, showcases the work of a local artist, AND gives you some impressive gear to sport around town.

If you miss the two-week window, you’re out of luck; once a design is gone, it’s gone for good. While that might seem dismissive or closed-ended, the window adds to the unique nature of the design. You can still check out all the past pieces in the shirt gallery, which is entertaining in of itself.

Founded in Buffalo, New York, the company was the brainchild of two men on a mission: Del Reid and Dan Gigante.

Reid originally developed the idea through one of his personal ventures—a Buffalo sports-centric blog called “Bills Mafia.” Seeing the amount of clout and attention his site garnered, Reid developed an idea using his followers and his platform as a jumping-off point. With the attention of a loyal Bills and Sabres fanbase at the helm, Reid took steps to focus his city’s extensive love for their sports teams into a love for their community.

Dan Gigante, on the other hand, already had his hands in the charity game as the co-founder and developer of YouAndWho.com. ‘YouAndWho’ is a company operating on a similar platform as ‘26 Shirts’—but on a grander scale. Artist designed t-shirts are sold in order to help someone in need in the simplest way possible, by putting a shirt on their backs. Simply put, you buy a shirt, they give a shirt.

When these two met and joined forces, ’26 Shirts’ was born, and a whole new revolution in giving goodwill came to be.

They are now joined by a third associate, Joe Peluso, who manages the production and distribution (as well as some of the concepting) of the shirts and helped set their sights on spreading the word to new cities.

Now, their crusade has turned its eyes to its first market outside of New York—Chicago—due to our outstanding passion for both our teams and our community. With five professional sports teams to boast about, there’s no shortage of excellent material, and with a city this size, there’s no shortage of worthy causes to be helped.

So what’s not to like, Chi-town? Unique sportswear, great designs by local artists, and of course, helping those in need to give you the warm-and-fuzzies. So let’s turn our passion for our teams (and our cross-town angst, Cubs and Sox fans) into a play for good in our city.

To quote co-founder Del Reid: ”It’s all about using your powers for good.”

(Featured Image courtesy of 26shirts.com)