Walmart says funds from Virginia Beach Strong shirts will go to victims’ families

UPDATE: Walmart says the proceeds will benefit the families, but says they could've communicated more clearly.

“We are aware of the sensitivity surrounding this issue and apologize for not clearly communicating from the start, that in partnership with Screen Gems we are ensuring that all funds raised through the t-shirt sales will be donated to the families of the victims through the United Way fund. We have a strong history of supporting the communities we serve and will continue to do so.”

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Kenna Given stopped by the Walmart on Virginia Beach Boulevard near Town Center to pick up a few things on Tuesday when she noticed Virginia Beach Strong shirts for sale.

"It threw up a red flag immediately," she said. While the "Virginia Beach Strong" slogan is used to help raise money for the families of the victims of the mass shooting, Given says there was no post indicating where the proceeds of the shirts were going.

Faces of the Virginia Beach mass shooting

"I walked through the store and the more I thought about it, the angrier I got."

Given tried to get answers from the staff, but couldn't get a clear one. "No one would give me a direct answer as to where the money was going. They couldn't say if any of the proceeds were going to the fund - nothing at all. They just couldn't answer," she said.

On Thursday a spokesperson from Walmart said, “We are aware of the sensitivity surrounding this issue and apologize for not clearly communicating from the start, that in partnership with Screen Gems we are ensuring that all funds raised through the t-shirt sales will be donated to the families of the victims through the United Way fund. We have a strong history of supporting the communities we serve and will continue to do so.”

Given posted a picture of the shirts on Facebook, where she's gotten lots of comments. "If they are truly selling those shirts and the profits are going to the fund, excellent. That's wonderful. If they are not, those shirts need to be taken down, and I do believe an apology needs to be issued," she said.

A News 3 reporter and photographer did not see the shirts for sale on Wednesday. "It should've been clarified," Given said of the shirt sales.

Several other groups are selling Virginia Beach Strong products with the proceeds going to the victims' families, including the United Way.

A spokesperson for the city says she's not aware of anyone having a copyright of the phrase "Virginia Beach Strong" and doesn't believe there is a legal requirement that the proceeds benefit the families. Her advice is that people know the source of where they're donating and if they want to donate to help the families, do it through United Way.

Click here for our full coverage on the Virginia Beach mass shooting. 

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