When many people have a bad day at work, they find a way to blow off steam and hope that the next morning will be better.
After a particularly lousy day on the professional golf circuit in Brazil, Brad Gehl decided to try something a little different. Instead of doing something for himself, he turned his bad mood into a way to help kids in need back home in Florida!
Gehl travels the world playing golf professionally, but in 2018 his career wasn’t going as well as he’d hoped. He knew an opportunity to give back would add meaning to his work and his life in general, so he began brainstorming ways to help others.
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The phrase “meaningful play” kept coming back to him, and before long, he stumbled on the idea for “The Hangry Project.” According to their website, the organization is all about keeping kids from getting so hungry that they become angry, or hangry.
Their ultimate goal is “to prevent the shift towards hanger within the youth skateboard community and protect the skate parks that provide sanctuary to those who need it.”
Growing up, Gehl went to a country club with his family, where the golf course quickly became his favorite spot. Understanding that many South Florida kids don’t have access to similar courses made the athlete look to another place where youth do gather: skate parks.
“For me, the golf course was a safe space,” Gehl explained. “It wasn’t until I started skateboarding and I went to a skate park and I looked around, it’s like, man, this might look a little different than a country club, but it is the same safe space.”
That’s why Gehl contacted the city-run Phipps Park in West Palm Beach and asked how he could help.
He started by buying a small refrigerator and stocking it full of kid-friendly snacks and drinks. Then he refilled the fridge every two weeks, calling in friends to help out when he had to travel for work.
“When I pull up with a truck bed full of snacks… it’s so fun. You’re able to see the joy when you’re helping the kids.”
These days, The Hangry Project is an established nonprofit that runs on donations and the sale of merchandise. Gehl hopes to expand beyond Phipps Park to other Florida skate parks — and eventually go even farther!
“The Hangry kids are teaching me,” he said. “Yes, we take care of food and snacks, and yes, that’s very important, but this idea of supporting these kids that are so authentic that might come from a diverse background, or a rough household, or we don’t know what their at-home situation is, but when they go to the skate park, it’s a safe space.”
Clearly, Gehl wasn’t content to live out just a portion of his life’s mission; he knew he had more to give and found a way to do it. Keep up the great work!
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