If Jeff Wasden had not opened PROformance Apparel eight years ago, he might well have been inside Arapahoe High School on Dec. 13 when shots rang out, critically wounding 17-year-old student Claire Davis.
Wasden taught at Newton Middle School for several years, and had just accepted the position of dean of students at AHS when the deal for his business came through.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the family, the students, the staff and the community, and we're honored to be part of that family," he said on Dec. 19.
To show that pride, Wasden is offering "Warrior Strong" T-shirts to the community for $15 each, of which about $12 is going to the Claire Davis fund at First Bank.
"We're delighted to participate with the kids from Arapahoe who created this concept," he said.
The shirts are white and feature a bow in gold and black, the school's colors, and the date of the shooting, "12.13.13" There's a large, black "A" with the word "Arapahoe" inside, and the words "Warrior Strong" in bold, black letters.
The school is named for the Arapaho Native Americans, and the tribe maintains a close relationship with the school. Former Principal Ron Booth reached out to the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming in 1993, in the midst of a slew of mascot controversies around the country. Tribal elders decided AHS was place deserving of their respect and endorsed the school's "Arapahoe Warrior" mascot, which was designed by Arapaho artist Wilbur Antelope.
Members of the tribe visit every other year. In March 2012, Darrell Lonebear said the AHS students are champions to the Arapaho Tribal Nation.
"I can tell warrior pride here at this high school is strong, and the energy we feel here is great," he said.
Wasden said the kids he's working with on the T-shirts are doing OK, that they're resilient and strong.
"They're showing a great deal of love and support and care for each other," he said. They're helping make the shirts, even going to his store in the middle of the night to help get orders out.
Wasden estimates more than 2,000 shirts have been purchased, which means about $24,000 for the Claire Davis fund. The Davis family has asked that donations in Claire's honor go to TLC Meals on Wheels or the Littleton Hospital Foundation to support mental-health awareness and support programs.
"Difficult times allow people to show their colors," said Wasden, adding that he's proud of the kids, the staff and the whole community.
"There's no reason to worry about who we're handing the world over to," he said. "They're going to be in better shape than we are."
T-shirts are available at PROformance in the Broadridge Shopping Center at 6905 S. Broadway, or at www.warriorstrongshirts.com. You can donate directly to the fund at First Bank, 2323 E. Arapahoe Road, Centennial, Colo. 80122.