By Chad Wingert
FRANKENMUTH — Members of the Frankenmuth community refused to let a unique piece of sports memorabilia slip out of their hands recently.
On Saturday, Dec. 22, Frankenmuth grad Brad Redford and his Xavier University men’s basketball teammates donned jerseys with the words “Sandy Hook” inscribed on the front during their game against Wofford. The uniforms, complete with green trim and the Sandy Hook Elementary School mascot, an Eagle, were worn by the Musketeers in effort to honor the victims of the Dec. 14 mass shooting in Connecticut.
Following the tough 56-55 loss, the Xavier Athletic Dept. put the jerseys up for auction through their website, in an effort to raise money for the survivors of the tragedy.
One player’s jersey that received the most attention on the website was fan-favorite and fifth-year senior, Redford.
But that didn’t deter Frankenmuth School Board member and owner of the Internet company Air Advantage, Scott Zimmer, from bringing the jersey back to its rightful home at Frankenmuth High School.
“I thought it would be kind of cool if we could bring that jersey home, serving as a good way for the people of Frankenmuth to remember the victims of Sandy Hook,” said Zimmer.
Once Zimmer saw the activity surrounding the auction of Redford’s jersey, he sought the help of his peers. That’s when Zimmer hopped online and sent out an e-mail to fellow members of the community and local businesses who he thought might be interested in helping make this dream come true.
“I really didn’t know what would happen once the auction for his jersey shot up to $1,500 early in the week. When I sent out an e-mail, letting people know about the auction and my idea, I had estimated that it would take three to five thousand dollars to make this happen,” said Zimmer.
“I also sent an e-mail out to Frankenmuth superintendent and school board president Mary Anne Ackerman, not knowing how she would react. Almost immediately, she wrote me back and told me to run with it.”
Then Zimmer’s mission went viral.
Friends of his were posting it on Facebook and Scott Wenzel, editor of the Frankenmuth News, made it front page news in the Thursday, Jan. 3 edition of the news, drawing even more interest from the community.
“The response wasn’t really surprising to me,” said Zimmer. “People were pledging amounts, then telling me if we needed more money, to let them know. Two people contacted me who no longer live in Frankenmuth anymore, just graduates of the school, that read the story in the News. People just wanted to help the cause, donating anywhere from $20 to $500.”
By Friday, Jan. 4, Zimmer had received donations from 34 businesses and families and late that afternoon, Redford’s jersey had officially become theirs.
“I just have to say thank you to the Frankenmuth area businesses and community minded residents who stepped up and committed to this cause. And, to the Frankenmuth administration, who saw this as a good thing and encouraged it,” said Zimmer.
“We’ve always been good friends with the Redford’s and he used to watch our sons. So this is very special to us, to be able to bring this home.”
However, Zimmer’s mission in purchasing the jersey wasn’t as much about glorifying Redford’s legacy at FHS as it was about remembering the victims of Sandy Hook Elementary School.
“Brad wasn’t aware of this whole thing until it was all said and done. His mother let him know via text and he was very surprised. They too are thrilled. But, this isn’t completely about Brad. Even Brad’s parents and grandparents want the victims to be the focus of this whole thing,” said Zimmer.
“We were fortunate enough to have Brad, such a stellar athlete, come through here. But the Redford family and 34 other people in this community backed our vision and, even the people at Xavier University know why this jersey is coming back here to Frankenmuth. This is a way that we can put something in our school, serving as a reminder of this tragedy. We want this to tell kids that if they know something, to tell someone. Hopefully, this will inspire people to make sure we are all safe. We don’t want something like this to happen again here in Frankenmuth, or anywhere.”
Plans for Redford’s jersey have not yet been finalized. Zimmer, along with Wenzel and Director of the Frankenmuth Historical Museum – John Webb, will attend Xavier’s game Saturday against George Washington where they will be presented with the jersey.
“I think it’s kind of neat that we can bring the jersey home ourselves, that we will be presented the jersey instead of having it shipped to us in a box,” said Zimmer. “There have been talks of placing the jersey in a high-traffic area, like the high school gym foyer, but nothing has been finalized.”
The extra funds raised that were not used in the purchase of the jersey will go back into the school district, according to Zimmer. Talks of purchasing iPad’s for teachers within the school are among the list of options for the leftover money.
“We have talked about trying to get more iPad’s into our school, we have also talked about putting some of the money into the endowment,” said Zimmer. “We are not 100% sure as to where that money is going to go. Mary Anne and I haven’t fully discussed those details, but it will be going into the school in some form or another.”
Chad Wingert is the Sports Editor of the Advertiser and can be reached at Sports@tcadvertiser.com
By Chad Wingert