Charity is nothing new to Scott Hartnell, the youngest of four siblings and whose parents were school teachers. He is one of the more generous Philadelphia Flyers when it comes to donating his time to visit sick children and last season was named the Chairman of the Beard for the NHLPA's annual Beard-A-Thon. Still, not even his annual golf tournament holds the promise of the #HartnellDown Foundation. Based on a Twitter hashtag that was created to make fun of Hartnell's propensity for falling down, the #HartnellDown Foundation was created in January with a goal of providing funds to charities that focus on three things that are most important to the 29-year-old: hockey, children and his hometown of Lloydminster, Alta./Sask.
Samaritanmag.com recently caught up with the Flyers winger and burgeoning philanthropist to talk about his reasons for wanting to give back.
What's the motivation behind your charitable endeavours?
"I believe athletes, celebrities, public figures, whatever you want to call it, they have a responsibility to give back to the communities they live in and grew up because those people in those places have given so much to us. Whether it be supporting us through the regular season or playoffs or when we were little chasing our dreams, to me it's a no-brainer."
What's your earliest recollection of giving back?
"Growing up, both my parents were school teachers and were involved with special needs kids -- integrating them into the classroom and activities during and after school and things like that. So I just was always around that way of thinking that everyone was entitled to a regular life. Some people are maybe afraid or don't know how to act around people that may be different than them, but to me everyone's special in their own way. That would be my first experience, not so much giving back, but seeing how much your time and effort means to people."
Were you ever impacted by charity as a kid?
"You know, playing on sports teams, we'd have bottle drives and fundraisers to help pay for trips and equipment and stuff. I don't know if that counts, but that would be where I learned how much every little bit helps."
Who impacted you the most in terms of being so generous with your time and money?
"You are your surroundings and who you grow up with. I was the youngest of four in our family and to just be able to watch my brothers and sister grow and what they've done with their lives was huge. Then to become an NHL player at 18 and be looking up to teammates who are giving back to charities and hospitals and doing their own things, like charity golf tournaments, I was like 'Wow, I'd love to do that one day.'"
"I'm three years older than Clarke and I first remember meeting him when he was like 14 or 15 years old at a hockey school. I was like, who's this small, little kid whipping around the ice and making all these neat moves? and then I came back the next summer and he was 6-foot tall. We just started hanging out and then he got drafted and now he's a great NHL player. So yeah, it's a pretty neat little story -- here was this little twerp skating around at a hockey school I was teaching at and next thing you know we're hosting a golf tournament together and raising about $200,000 for our community."
That's a pretty big chunk of change for it only being its first year, no?
"Just to see the support we generated was amazing and everything went back to our community so it was just incredible. Wade Redden and Cory Cross had one a few years ago, same kind of thing. Lloydminster has a tonne of oil money so to be able to tap into those funds, no pun intended, is a no-brainer. Obviously, people in our community love hockey and love golf so to put the two together with money going to the Lloydminster Regional Health Foundation and things like that is pretty awesome."
How did you get involved with Locks of Love?
"I had grown my hair out for a year and the next season I was like 'Oh, maybe I should just keep it going,' so I went the next whole season without cutting it. You've seen it, it's crazy, it's curly, it just does what it does and I don't have much control over it, so when it came time to cut it I was fooling around on the Internet and saw that George Parros from the Anaheim Ducks had donated his mustache for Locks of Love so I thought why not do the same thing? So I got it chopped off and donated it and a little money and hopefully some kid is the better for it. It made me feel good to know I helped out in some small way. At the end of the day, it's not like I'm looking for some award or anything like that; it's just something I'm privileged to be able to do."
I see you're growing your hair again. What does your mom think about your unruly 'do?
"She used to tell me to cut it every time I saw her, but when I eventually ended up cutting it off, when she'd watch the games from back home on TV, she couldn't recognize me on the ice without the hair coming out of the back of my helmet. So she quickly changed her tune [laughing]. Now it's back to where it was a few years ago, so it's easier for her to pick me out on the ice."
Last year you were the Chairman of the Beard for the NHL's Beard-A-Thon during the playoffs. What was that like, seeing as all the proceeds went to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, a charity that hits close to home?
"That was cool. My mom had a stroke over 10 years ago and lost most of her ability to walk and get around good, but she's healthy in her mind and gets around as best she can and is the same mom I had pre-stroke. When something like that happens you, it could be any family member, an auntie, an uncle, it really does hit home and you know how scary everything is and how fragile life is. It was very difficult for me and my family at the time and I'm just so grateful she got through it and it's great to now be able to give back a little as well."
What's the greatest thing in life you learned?
"Trust your instincts. You're going to make mistakes, but don't be afraid to live and learn. That goes in hockey, in life and in relationships. Just go with it and whatever happens love life and enjoy every day."
CLICK HERE FOR PART 1 TO THIS STORY, INCLUDING AN INTERVIEW WITH THE FAN WHOSE INSULT LED TO THE #HARTNELLDOWN FOUNDATION.Air Jordan 1