Fords Man Uses Asbury Park's 'Tillie' To Raise Sandy Relief Funds

Domonic Higgins of the Fords section of Woodbridge used the iconic Tillie as a symbol for rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy

Like everyone else in central New Jersey, Domonic Higgins rode out Hurricane Sandy as best he could. But when the storm was over, the 23-year-old Fords native decided to use his skills to help with hurricane relief.

In Higgins' case, that meant designing a t-shirt that people could wear with pride, knowing the money went to help people hurt by the storm.

Higgins, a now and then college student who works at Target in nearby Menlo Park, wanted to design something that would be emblematic of the struggle to survive and overcome tremendous odds.

That's where Tillie comes in.

Tillie is the iconic symbol of Asbury Park that had grinned out over the boardwalk from the Palace Amusement building for decades. In 2004, the building was torn down, but not before the Tillie mural and other important artifacts from the building were removed and preserved.

The original Tillie is in storage, awaiting to be incorporated into a new structure, but in the meantime, a tribute to  Tillie was repainted on the side of Wonder Bar in Asbury Park.

"Tillie was saved because people got together and fought to save her," said Higgins, remembering that even Bruce Springsteen got in on the act to save Tillie from the wrecking ball.

That's where Higgins took his inspiration for his Hurricane Sandy relief t-shirt design.

The shirt has Tillie's face on the back, with the words, "Jersey Fed, Jersey Bred" above the icon, and the logo, "We Will Rebuild" below.

Although the shirt is a pre-production model due out any day, it has taken off. Higgins has more than $2,000 in preorders from the modestly-priced $13 shirt.

"Everybody loves it. It really speaks to the Jersey resolve to rebuilding after disaster," he said.

He's selling the shirt from his website, Brainlense. He intends to donate all of the profits from the shirt to the Salvation Army.

"I had always want to design my own clothing line. This is a great start to it."

With virtually no publicity, Higgins started getting thousands of hits on his site and the orders began pouring in.

It's become so popular that a friend who has connections to Governor Chris Christie's office showed him design.

"The governor said, order me one," Higgins smiled.

To order the limited edition Tillie t-shirt, go to brainlense.com. For information on the original 'Save Tillie' effort, go to the Save Tillie site.

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