You guys didn’t think I would let this tremendous piece by Tony go unnoticed did you? I just thought it needed its own highlighting.
excerpt from this week’s D2football.com GLIAC Column
We have a special player profile to get the season started. Those of us who follow Division II have various reasons for doing so. One reason I hear about consistently is the fact that the players often play simply because they love doing so and see athletics as a way to expand on their college and educative experience. The Division II mission embodies that love with its core values of learning, sportsmanship, service, resourcefulness, passion, and balance.
Over the summer I learned of a GLIAC player who has taken his desire to make a difference to task, and his ability to live up to Division II’s core values every day makes him a terrific example of what a student-athlete should be. Kevin Hershock is a senior H-Back for Hillsdale College. I had the pleasure of spending some time with him recently, and he not only answered our standard set of questions, but told me about an epiphany he had about a year ago and how it has since changed his life – not to mention the lives of others.
What is your major?
What’s your favorite class?
Other than home, what is your favorite place to play in the GLIAC?
Wayne State. I have a lot of family in Detroit, and they can come and see me play.
How about your least favorite place to play?
Tech or Northern. The road trip is brutal. You had really better like movies!
How is life on the road in the GLIAC, and how do you pass the time on the long trips? We watch a lot of movies and play lot of card games. It’s regimented in that our schedule is set for us. At the same time that allows us to not have to think, which makes it relaxing.
Who is the hardest hitter on your team?
I’d have to say our center, Phil Doerfler. He’s rock solid, and if he lines you up in the head you won’t feel well for a few plays.
Who is the hardest hitter in the GLIAC?
I really don’t know as I try not to learn anyone’s names from the other teams. I can say that it is usually the guys at middle linebacker.
How many text messages do you get/send in a day?
Wow, SO many. I have an iPhone and I’ve gotten pretty good at texting fast. I can’t count the number of messages in a day, but it’s a lot.
What’s your favorite food?
Hungry Howie’s Pizza
What’s your favorite TV Show?
What influenced your decision to choose Hillsdale/playing in Division II?
What swayed me to Hillsdale was the emphasis on achieving balance between academics and athletics. Both are competitive here, and I really liked that.
What do you hope to do after graduation?
I graduate in December and have tentative plans to travel for a while. I also have a job offer in Chicago, but mostly I hope to carry on my charity work.
Charity work? What does a soon to be 22-year-old know about charity work? Certainly, those in their early twenties are not incapable of giving their time, talent or treasure, and I in no way mean to imply they are not. With that said, how many of us can say that we have ever devoted our energy to creating something from nothing – something that could impact the lives of others – something that is about giving and not gaining – let alone when we were a member of that youthful demographic? Well, Kevin Hershock can.
Hershock, a senior at Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, Michigan, was enjoying his college experience. He had the good fortune of attending a well-respected, exclusive institution. He was even blessed with enough talent and ability to be recruited to and earn a spot on Hillsdale’s football team. But despite all of the great things going for him, he somehow felt like he was missing out – so much so, that as he wrote in his journal one evening he literally began to feel panic-stricken.
“I just felt like I could be doing more with my life”, Hershock revealed during our phone conversation. “I just could not allow any more time to pass by without actually doing something I found meaningful.”
So, Hershock spent the rest of that evening feverishly scribbling down any idea that popped into his head. It didn’t matter how big, small, random, or crazy the thought. He left no stone unturned: business ideas, new product concepts, stand-up comedy routines. Whatever came to mind, whatever interested him, he wrote it down and tried to piece any of the ideas together that might make sense.
And then, a breakthrough.
“There was no system,” Hershock said. “It just kind of hit me. I stayed up all night working on the idea to see if it was feasible. I even called my folks at like 5:00 in the morning to see what they thought.”
After the wake-up call to the parents, and after they undoubtedly settled into a sense of relief that the reason they were roused from their pre-dawn slumber had nothing to do with their college kid being in a jam, the action started – and “Be A Number” was born.
‘Be A Number’ sells t-shirts. They carry several sizes, and a few different color schemes of a single design. Nothing really exciting or unique about it – let alone worthy of a late-night epiphany, some might surmise. Perhaps not, but simply selling shirts isn’t the true goal. Putting a shirt on someone (usually a kid) who needs it is the objective. This is where a young man’s quest to “do more” with his life turned creative. Each shirt Kevin sells is individually numbered. And, for every shirt sold, ‘Be A Number’ donates an identically numbered shirt to a child that truly needs it.
“The shirt is a two-way gateway toward change,” Hershock explained. “It extends to the families of the buyer AND the receiver. The message to the kid is that someone cares about them, and that they themselves can change the world if they want to. And we will help them.
“At the same time the buyer is reminded that there are people out there that may have it a lot worse than they realize, and it will hopefully drive them to help other people in other ways. We want them they realize that they can also change the world, even if it’s only by spending a few bucks on a t-shirt. We use a t-shirt to create a silent partnership between the buyer and a child who can really use a partner – no matter where they are.”
After working through the initial logistics of the idea, Hershock realized it had great potential. He started to talk to friends, family members, and fellow Hillsdale students. One student in particular, Elizabeth Bonner, was so moved that she joined the company almost immediately and has worked alongside Kevin ever since. Before they knew it, over 100 shirts were sold and the company has experienced consistent growth.
In just under a year ‘Be A Number’ has sold and donated nearly 1,000 shirts. Remarkably, this has been accomplished with essentially no commercial marketing. Social networking and word-of-mouth have done most of the work thus far. It’s a response that Hershock can only describe as “overwhelming”.
When asked how he determines where to donate, he says that it really comes down to finding a situation that moves him. “When no one knew of what I was doing, I just started looking on the web for places that are consistently reputed to have high poverty. Other than that, it’s actually pretty random.”
The first recipient of ‘Be A Number’s’ generosity was a Sioux Indian Reservation in South Dakota. While poverty is known to be pervasive in these communities, Hershock commented that “Many people really don’t know much about how bad things are there. When we did the drop there, it was truly eye-opening.”
Since then, ‘Be A Number’ has donated to a conference in New Jersey for children with Pallister-Killian Syndrome (www.pkskids.net). They have also trekked to the Dominican Republic, and trips are already scheduled to Honduras and Haiti. On some of these trips, the group is helping to build schools and housing for the same kids that receive the t-shirts.
While ‘Be A Number’ is a for-profit concern, Hershock’s business model is to take all of the profits generated and put them back into the company. The money made is used to cover the cost of traveling to do the T-Shirt drops, or create new products that will generate additional ideas for giving. One idea of note is a new t-shirt design that will come from the artistic hands of some of the children who have already been helped. Hershock wants his company to help people on an ongoing basis. From our discussion, it’s evident that Hershock wants his company to always be creative and to last a lifetime.
Another new idea for an upcoming project is to work with foster care agencies, perhaps starting in Detroit. So many children headed for foster homes are often told to “gather their things”, and are simply given a garbage bag to carry their belongings. Hershock is hoping to provide these children with a duffle bag that contains a numbered shirt, as well as a note that lets them know that someone cares about them.
Certainly, running a company like this could consume every waking moment. And yet somehow, this young man manages to do so while going to college and playing football. I asked him how he pulls off that magic trick and he could only chuckle and reply “I’m not really sure. I guess it’s just about finding balance. Almost anyone can do more, and most folks would admit that. From there, it’s just about wanting to find that correct balance and having enough motivation and passion about what you’re working toward to make it happen.”
Just think – all of this from a panic-attack followed by an (admittedly atypical) all-nighter. Many of us probably had that kind of night in college when papers or projects were due. It looks like Kevin is setting the curve for the rest of us.
I may be gushing a bit, but I really think what Kevin is doing is exceptional. The ‘Be A Number’ website is great, so I encourage everyone to at least check it out and see what the shirts look like. Visitors can also link to Facebook so they can become fans, or start following ‘Be A Number’ on Twitter. The feature I really like is that customers can key their shirt number into a locator to see where their matching shirt was delivered. It’s pretty cool.
So, in lieu of a trivia question this week, I’m challenging the fans of the GLIAC to get behind one of the young men that makes following this league so special. The first three readers who forward me a copy of their confirmation e-mail from a ‘Be A Number’ purchase will receive a copy of the 2010 D2Football.com Preview Magazine.
I’m looking forward to hearing from a lot of you very soon! Send your confirmation to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Good Luck!
* A special thanks to Tracy Horodsyki, who contributed to my profile of Kevin Hershock and his company.