Meet The 'Boston Strong' Team That Started A Movement With A T-Shirt And Turned Hate Into Love

The mantra "Boston Strong" has been splashed across building facades, used as a battle cry from coast to coast and taken on a life of its own beyond simply a slogan or a hashtag.

But it started as a blue and gold bold-lettered T-shirt.

The "Boston Strong" charity shirts, supporting the One Fund, originated with two Emerson College students in Boston who didn't want to sit idly by in the immediate aftermath of the marathon blasts that killed three people and injured at least 264.

Nicholas Reynolds, who will be a senior at Emerson, and Chris Dobens, who will be a sophomore, came up with the idea the night of the attack. Lane Brenner, who graduated this year, joined the team shortly after. So far the students have sold 57,000 shirts, raising $870,000 for the One Fund.

At the end of June, the team will turn over the funds to the nonprofit, established by Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.

Reynolds, a film major, and Brenner, who graduated with a communications degree, talked to HuffPost about the movement behind "Boston Strong" and what's next for the T-shirt project, which is a completely voluntary undertaking for them.

HuffPost: As the originators of this phrase that's since proliferated globally, what does "Boston Strong" mean to you, and how did you come up with it?
Nicholas Reynolds: We were playing around with ideas and arrived at "Boston Strong." It was sort of simple and wasn't necessarily specific to the singular event, but a general attitude we wanted to honor.

HP: This has really gone from a shirt to a hashtag to a statement. Tell us about these various incarnations and how it feels to have started it.
N.R. The Martin Richard family [who lost their son] had said in an interview that they were "Boston strong," and that was really moving on a personal level. On a less personal level, it was on the busses, the Museum of Fine Arts and celebrities are using the term, which was nuts to see. And it still hasn't really sunk in that we were a part of it. It's crazy to us that it started with our T-shirts. We started using the hashtag to get our message out, and then the hashtag became this whole other thing that was so far beyond what we could imagine. With or without the T-shirts, we were so proud that we could be in the moment there.

HP: After you heard about the bombings, how were you able to immediately process your grief and channel it to do something positive that very same day?
N.R.: We were on the way to the marathon and heard from our friends what happened. So we were listening to the news and feeling pretty helpless. Around 9 or 10 that night, Chris turned to me and said, 'If we can't do anything about this right now, what about creating some T-shirts?' It felt like the thing to do, and we started doing some research and designed the T-shirt and got it up there at 10 that night. Then we started blasting it out to social networks.

HP: What was it like on campus the day of the attacks?
N.R.: We exist in a city walk on Boylston Street, and there was this real hesitancy to leave the block. Everyone was sad but also proactive with a texting communication line -- letting one another know they were OK. Everyone knew someone running the marathon, so you could certainly feel that we were shaken. But it was truly amazing to see people step up. Our president was at the hospital visiting students who were injured, and he went to each dorm that night to answer questions.

HP: Lane, as an R.A. (resident assistant) for your dorm, you must have helped the students deal with grief. What was that like?
Lane Brenner: Nick and I were responsible for the health and wellness for 80 people on our floor. So that night, we wanted to offer a place to be and talk in the common room. We really tried to make ourselves very visible. Honestly, there wasn't much to be said at the time, and we didn't really know what was going on, but all we had was each other. Everyone was very respectful with the different ways people were dealing with grief. Some were quiet; some needed to talk; some were upset or angry.

HP: There has really been global support for the T-shirts. How does that feel knowing the world has come together over Boston?
L.B.: Yes, the shirts ship to Canada and the U.S., but people have bought them and sent them to Switzerland, India, China, Scandinavia, all over. It's so wonderful. Really, the Boston community did this. We just had this idea and the skills, but it was really the generosity and outpouring of love that made this happen.

HP: What is it about your team that made you feel so moved to do something? Simply big hearts?
L.B.: Nick and Chris are extremely compassionate people. Chris is a freshman and got hired to be an R.A. next year. They are also extremely smart and knew how to use their skills, which are marketing and graphic design, for good. They care so much about Boston in general. It's our home, so we wanted to do something great. We wanted to sell 110 T-shirts, but we sold 57,000.

HP: Nick, what's next for the Boston Strong team?
N.R. For the T-shirts, we plan to continue until demand diminishes. We are working with a Harvard student to get a book published titled "Boston Strong" with photos, stories and quotes. It's a people's history of the event -- less of a news broadcast and more of an emotional retelling of the good things that came out of it. We are working to curate the stories and photographs by end of summer. All the proceeds will go to charity.

Get the Boston Strong T-shirt here. The $20 cost includes a $15 donation to the One Fund and $5 for production.

Donate to the One Fund here.

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