Metro Detroit woman says t-shirts were sold labeling her as dead

Posted at 6:30 PM, Aug 30, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-30 18:42:11-04

Katelyn Riffenberg says her name is unique.

“I am the one and only Katelyn Riffenberg,” she said.

So, when a friend called saying her name was on a t-shirt that appeared to list those killed by heroin overdose, she was shocked.

“My heart goes out to the families that suffer from addiction, of course, but do I suffer from addiction and am I passed away? No,” said Katelyn.

She was also angry for the friend who told her about this. 

Her friend, Linze Shriner, also found the name of her brother who died two years ago on that shirt. She says some people may think he overdosed, but his family does not. 

The family says no one told him his name would be on a shirt.  They feel their loss was exploited.

“He was not addicted,” Shriner said. “And my family, every day we relive the day he passed away.”

7 Action News contacted Dena Voukidis, who made the shirts, to find out how this happened.

“The first name on the shirt is my boyfriend who died of an overdose,” Voukidis said.

She sold the shirts at her business, Dena’s Family Restaurant, in Monroe, and says she gave all money raised to the Ryan’s Hope Foundation, a charity that supports addicts.

“It will pay for three people to go to rehab,” said Voukidis said.

So where did she get the names listed on the shirt? She says act a fundraiser, the foundation asked people to write the names of loved ones who died on a car.

The idea to make the shirts came after the car-signing. She printed those names on a shirt. 

Riffenberg said there must have been some kind of misunderstanding. She signed a car at a fundraiser to show support for a loved one who died. She said she never was told to write the name of someone who died.

“I didn’t want my name on a shirt that had that meaning behind it,” Riffenberg said.

In the end, Voukidis said she burned the remaining shirts.

She said she feels terrible this happened, and is working to find a new way to raise awareness and help in the fight against heroin addiction.

“I am so sorry,” Voukidis said. “I never meant for anyone to get hurt.”