A Bartender, a Brewer and a Baller: Raising Funds By Raising a Glass
In the winter of 2013, two-time NFL Super Bowl champion Chris Long traveled to Tanzania, Africa to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. After conquering the continent’s tallest peak, the former American football defensive end returned to his hotel. While in the lobby bar, Long ran into American businessman and philanthropist, Douglas Pitt. As Goodwill Ambassador for the United Republic of Tanzania, Pitt was in town to oversee the construction of a sustainable water well.
Currently, only 50% of Tanzanians have access to clean water. Along with its arid climate and related periods of drought, soil erosion, unsustainable deforestation and poor land management have contributed to the problem. Furthermore, industrial pollution and inadequate sewage systems have contaminated most lakes, and in many areas, women and children must walk great distances to collect safe water for their families.
Long returned to the U.S. touched by what he had experienced in Tanzania. Stirred by the country’s water crisis, Long launched The Waterboys Initiative of the Chris Long Foundation (http://waterboys.org). Founded in 2015, Waterboys began with a mission to build 32 sustainable deep borehole wells, one for each of the NFL teams.
In January 2016, Hunter Smith, president and head brewer of Virginia-based Champion Brewing Company caught the bug. “When I heard about the charity, I knew I wanted to help,” Smith recalls. “Chris Long and I are both from Charlottesville, and I knew that we had several mutual friends. Moreover, as a Patriots fan watching him earn his first Super Bowl ring, I wanted to reach out.”
From those shared local connections, the idea for a special Waterboys-based brew took shape. When considering the approach, Smith looked to Long’s tastes for inspiration. “I asked Chris what kind of beer he kept in his fridge, and when he gave me a brand description, I knew right away what to do,” Smith says. “It’s an IPA that blends old school and new flavors. It’s got a malty backbone and legit IBU count, but also some cool new hops like Mandarina Bavaria to keep things fresh.”
Released in late August 2019, Smith describes Champion Brewing Company’s Waterboys IPA as “super crushable with plenty of hop flavor.” What’s more, in less than three months, it has raised over $10,000 for the Waterboys charity. Smith hopes to see that number grow to over $40,000, the cost to fund a well named for the brewing company.
That goal seems increasingly achievable, as in early September 2019, the philanthropic fever made another leap 500 miles south. Upon learning of the charitable collaboration, Vince Lendacki, bar manager at Amen Street Fish & Raw Bar in Charleston, South Carolina, was inspired.
“I am a South Jersey native and an Eagles fan,” explains Lendacki. “I was at the Super Bowl game where Chris Long helped Philly win, and I’m a major admirer. When I learned about the joint effort to create this beer, and especially when I realized what kind of charity it supported, I wanted to help.”
This isn’t the Holy City bartender’s first time on the philanthropy gridiron. This spring, he collaborated with Charleston-based Revelry Brewing, helping them to create the ‘Broquat,’ a seven-percent ABV, loquat-infused IPA. Armed with intimate knowledge of the city’s accessible loquat trees, Lendacki stalked, handpicked and seeded 200 pounds of the tangy, golden orange fruits for the cause.
Proceeds from the release party – as well as from Amen Street’s loquat-based cocktail — went to Lendacki’s charity of choice, Charleston Trees, a subcommittee of the Charleston Parks Conservancy, which works to plant trees throughout the city.
Similarly, while not in any way formerly associated with Waterboys, Lendacki was nonetheless compelled to action, undertaking a one-man, employer-approved mission to fundraise through the end of the football season. Named as a sly wink to Adam Sandler’s ‘Waterboy’ movie, Amen Street Fish & Raw Bar’s current ‘Cholula Oblongata’ special features a raw oyster topped with crispy-fried chicken skins, pickles, and Cholula hot sauce. To tie it all together, the savory treat is accompanied with a Waterboys IPA chaser. By selling the beer as a shot, Lendacki estimates they’re raising roughly $10 per can for the charity. And while he states his main goal is fundraising for Waterboys, he also cites a desire to “raise awareness and blow minds.”
“Getting people to care can be tough,” Lendacki acknowledges. “You have to catch their eye and get their ear before you can educate them and get them to really care.” The motivated bartender aspires to continue such grassroots fundraising efforts, until the day he’s able to make “some significant change” for the greater good, beyond the support of other important causes.
Until then, Lendacki hopes to raise as much money for Waterboys as he can and maybe even compel Chris Long to come and try a Cholula Oblongata. “I keep thinking, what if Chris Long, the Walter Peyton Man of the Year, came to Charleston because of this?” he enthuses. “Maybe it would make a difference? Perhaps it would light a little fire under the butts of my fellow F&B folk, like ‘Look at Vince go! Maybe I could be doing more with my time?’”
Whether or not that’s in the cards remains to be seen. But from now until February 2, there’s good reason to seek out a Cholula Oblongata and further this passionate barkeep’s efforts to successfully further the greater goal of bringing clean drinking water to the people of Tanzania.