● Published by Robert Frey
The Positive Impact Of Sports Memorabilia
By Hailey “Hensgens” Fleming | Photos From Impact Acadiana
What do you do when you want to raise money for a cause that is all your own? A cause that you think few will feel led to donate to amidst hundreds of other charitable organizations and worthy causes? This was the dilemma Brian Campbell, a Delcambre native and Kinesiology professor at UL, faced when he decided to form Impact Acadiana in 2013. Through a unique collaborative effort, which connects fellow organizations and sports enthusiasts, his local nonprofit organization is making waves in unique ways in the Acadiana area.
In order to contribute to the two causes dear to his heart, college scholarships and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Brian knew he had to find a connection with donors that would set him apart. He found his answer in his lifelong hobby and passion - sports memorabilia. By providing valuable memorabilia items for auction at local charitable events, Brian found a way for everyone to win. He explains, “I have stuff people want, but I don’t have a cause people just want to outright donate to, so we have to compensate for that. This way, they indirectly care about the causes that I care about.”
Contributing to your community can be easy when the avenue by which you do so coincides with your passion. This is certainly the case with Brian, an avid sports memorabilia collector, who has put his passion to work. “It’s an obsession,” he laughs. “I’ve been collecting since I was a kid and I’ve gotten good at it. Now, it’s a hobby of mine that I can do to help others and help my own.” He jokes that on a professor’s salary, “I can’t donate $5,000 to a cause, but maybe I can get a signed helmet and help raise $5,000.”
For Brian, collecting is a passion that goes back to the beginning. He got his start when his sister brought him to her college class to meet and get the autograph of USL quarterback, Brian Mitchell, who would later become known as one of the greatest return specialists in NFL history. “From my end, it’s history,” he explains. “Some people really like art or cars. Being a sports fan, I love that Brett Favre had a helmet in his hands, autographed it, and that name will be on that helmet until the end of time.” He continues, “There’s just a lot of cool history and nostalgia that comes with these personally autographed pieces and memorabilia.”
The nostalgic draw of these items among sports enthusiasts is key to Impact Acadiana’s success. Due to an overwhelming demand for unique auction items for local charity events, Brian developed a strategy that would be mutually beneficial for both parties. Through this collaborative program, Impact Acadiana provides the auction item and receives a portion of the proceeds it generates while the rest goes to the host organization. Brian elaborates, “Impact Acadiana has two major causes. Other organizations have causes that other people care about. Well, I have memorabilia that other people care about. So, I bring in unique memorabilia and they bring a crowd of people that support their cause and we all benefit. Rising tides raise all of our ships.” He adds, “That’s how we fundraise.”
This strategy has proven to be quite successful, yielding outstanding results over the past four years. Through their efforts, Impact Acadiana has invested more that $100,000 in offsetting college expenses as well as funded several student research projects and assisted in sending them to educational conferences and conventions. Toward their second cause, they have contributed the necessary funding to endow three new research grants with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in memory of several Acadiana residents.
These results are an encouragement to Brian’s labor of love. When asked what it takes to get a signature he responds, “a lot of work and a lot of time. We do what needs to be done that maybe other people wouldn’t have the time or patience to do.” Among other places, he and volunteer students from the UL Kinesiology department must often travel to conventions, golf tournaments and training camps. He continues to explain that one piece may travel huge distances and be worked on for years at a time to obtain a certain set of signatures that will appeal to a particular audience.
Some collectors may be tempted to hold onto such prized items, but Brian explains that everything is for the cause. “None of this collection is mine. I told them if I was going to do this I have to be able to forfeit,” he says. “I have to be willing to part with anything we get if it’s going to help the cause.” Of course, a few of his sentimental collector items are an exception to this rule. Some of these include his personalized picture from Johnny Unitas, an NFL quarterback for the Baltimore Colts otherwise known as “The Golden Arm,” and John Wooden, a six-time national basketball coach of the year.
For all of the time and effort invested, not a single participant is compensated. “Everything we do is strictly volunteer,” Brian says. “We don’t have any expenses outside of those to buy helmets and jerseys and travel. No donation is going to cover a salary,” he adds. However, for him, it’s never been about the money. “It allows me to do my hobby. I genuinely enjoy when I put a piece together that auctions for $3,000 or $,4000. I get paid on satisfaction. That’s how I work,” he explains.
As with anything else, parting with his prized memorabilia is easier when he knows it’s for a greater purpose. “We want to give cool things and find collaborative organizations,” Brian says. “We can both walk away knowing we’ve helped both of our organizations.” A few that have benefited from their partnership include the Vermillion and Iberia Chambers of Commerce, Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Acadiana, Louisiana Open, Abbeville Rotary Club, and the Ragin’ Cajun Athletic Celebration.
Impact volunteers will be staying busy as they prepare to participate in several upcoming events, including the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Acadiana Murder Mystery Dinner, the Southside Shark Dinner Social and the Bayou Wishes program for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in the fall. Impact Acadiana will also be hosting independent fundraisers. These include a Carwash Cruise Raffle, which directly benefits the scholarship program, as well as a Cajun Family Feud to be held at Tops Appliances and Cabinetry with Chef Derise. The details for these events are still to come.
If you or someone you know would like to contribute to or partner with Impact Acadiana, your inquiries can be sent to Brian Campbell at email@example.com . For further information you can visit their website, www.impactacadiana.com, or their Facebook page @impactacadiana.