STATEWIDE — If someone is tuning in to an hour-long, 5:00 PM virus briefing each day, they likely need to find their moments of zen.
For Bret Walker and Emilee Stites, they’ve found humor and heart in what can be a scary time. The two have turned the regular press briefings of Governor Andy Beshear, D-Ky, into a way to raise money for local coronavirus aid.
Their project — called “Beshear Gear” – makes artistic use of phrases online commenters and meme creators have picked out of the live broadcasts. Favorites are screen printed on clothing and other items and the proceeds from each sale benefits the Team Kentucky Fund, which directs aid to people deemed in the most financial need during this time. In less than a week of advertising, Stites says they’ve surpassed $10,000.
“We’ve been really amazed at how it’s picked up so fast,” Stites said in a phone interview Wednesday.
Most viewers have come to know Kenneth, who is perpetually just off-camera but is always being asked to switch the presentation to the “next slide.” That command now lives on a tee-shirt that can be purchased in multiple colors; and all of the phrases are available on canvas bags, stickers, and even coffee mugs. Kenneth is Kenneth Mansfield, Beshear’s Creative Director.
Other lines now immortalized by the company include Beshear’s common opening line of, “We’re gonna get through this;” his warning of, “We can’t be doin’ that” in his soft southern drawl; and, of course, a tribute to ASL interpreter Virginia Moore. Moore has become a fixture at the briefings, been featured on the HBO show “Last Week Tonight,” and received the status of Kentucky Colonel in the middle of one of the broadcasts – an honor she had to translate while receiving. “Kentucky’s Virginia” is now featured in the online store.
While cases and deaths continue to touch Kentucky and the rest of the world, Stites says it helps to find times of laughter and common bonds during daily life.
“I think it’s important to take a step back and appreciate the funny things and good things that are going on,” she said. “And seeing how people are really coming together and helping other people. That’s the thing that, I think if we focus on, we’ll all be able to get through this.”