May 14 2014 10:53AM
**This is not a sports related article.**
I still remember getting my first suit. It was a hand-me-down from my older cousin Scott, but I got to pick a new shirt and tie to wear with it, and I vividly remember thinking this suit made me look older. It was a big deal.
Like most teenagers my cousin never wore the suit more than two or three times so it seemed brand new to me. I felt more mature when I wore it the first time and that memory was the reason why we started The Gregor Foundation this past year. Our goal was to provide suits for young men graduating from high school who were unable to get their own suit.
Yesterday we had our first fitting day, and it was, AWESOME.
A quick back story on how yesterday came about.
For over a year I'd thought about my idea. There is a wonderful charity called Cinderella's Closet that has been providing prom dresses for girls for the past 10 years. They now help over 300 girls every year, which is great.
I've done a lot of charity work the past decade and I've noticed that women are better at making foundations and charities that help women. They really support one another, and I felt it was time that men helped out each other. I know guys are just as caring and want to help, but often we don't think of how to help.
Look in sports. Breast cancer is huge and they have incorporated it into the NFL and CFL, a game played by men. Yes they have mothers, wives, sisters, but the players also have fathers, brothers and uncles. I've always wondered why Prostate cancer, for example, hasn't tried to work with pro leagues to gain awareness. It impacts the men who play the game and the fans who watch. Women are great at getting awareness out for their campaigns and they are great at supporting other women.
Cinderella's Closet inspired me to do something similar for boys. Boys would love to look good at their grad just as much as girls, and that is why I decided to come up with the Gregor Foundation.
It is impossible to start a foundation on your own. You need a lot of help, and I've had so many wonderfully generous people step up and offer their support.
My mother did all of the boring paperwork necessary to start a foundation. It took months to get approved, but we finally got the green light in January. Thanks Mom.
I knew if I asked my audience, predominantly men, here at the Nation and on TSN 1260 for suits they would come through. Many of us have a suit sitting in our closet that we haven't worn in years, but we hold out hope we'll fit it one day. It never happens, ha, but getting the suits was just one small step.
I realized I needed a building to store the suits and where the boys could come and try them on.
In February I called Greg Christenson. He owns CDL Homes and does a lot for charity. When I called Greg I just wanted to pick his brain about business contacts he knew that might possibly have some warehouse space. I told Greg my idea and what I needed. He called me back the next day and said he had a space he would donate to our foundation. He got me in touch with Lynne from CDL and said she would meet me, show me the space and arrange everything. One of the biggest hurdles was gone in a day. Unreal. Thanks again Greg and Lynne, you two are awesome. Your willingness to help your community is inspiring to me.
I had a space, I had an idea, but how was I going to get in touch with kids who needed suits?
Anne from Cinderella's closet (she was great in offering help and advice) graciously sent me a list of schools she had worked with. I called a few of them, but when I got in touch with Lawrence from Fresh Start he made a big difference. He contacted many of the schools himself and told them about us, and that got the ball rolling. Lawrence you are awesome.
Now I needed suits. I went on air and here and told you about our plan. You guys stepped up huge. We started receiving suits very quickly. It was great. Edmontontians are very generous and I knew you guys would get behind our initiative. Thank you so much for taking the time out of your day to drop off your suits. The kids really appreciated it.
Things kept getting better.
Rupinder from Page The Cleaner contacted me and offered to dry clean all the suits and shirts. I was floored. This was a huge savings for us and she even offered to make their central location, 11416, 142 street a drop off point. It would save us having to move the suits twice. Rupinder, I hope you and your staff know how much we appreciate you. THANK YOU.
Now the suits and shirts were pouring in, they were freshly cleaned and pressed and fitting day was getting closer. My wife and I spent a few weekends moving all the suits to our warehouse and sorting them in sizes on racks. It was going great, but then I realized I'd made a big oversight.
We had many suits in size 38-46, but we didn't have any 34 or 36 and many of the boys who had requested a suit were in that size range. That is when the man, who has been one of our biggest supporter, came through again.
WE ALL NEED SUPPORT
Sterling from Derks has been on board with this idea from day one. When I sat down with him and his brother Landon to talk about the idea, they jumped in with both feet. They offered up racks to store the suits on, offered to do alterations on the suits and said they'd help out in any way. They lived up to their word.
I called Sterling and told him about my suit shortage. He had an idea. He could get us some new suits from one of his suppliers at a very low rate. He challenged me to get donations to pay for 10 suits, and then Derks would match that and purchase 10 more. We needed about 20 smaller suits.
The next day, I went on air said I needed some help. I purchased the first suit and within two hours the other 10 were paid for by listeners. You guys are FREAKING awesome. Now we had our 20 smaller suits and fitting day was less than a week away.
My sister-in-law and niece made all the signs for different suit and shirt sizes, so we could see everything easier. Thank you Elise and Ava. I made some temporary change rooms in the warehouse, channeling my inner Red Green (If they don't find you handsome at least they'll find you handy) and we were ready to go.
I've been lucky enough to be involved in many charitable events over the years and I'm always amazed at the generosity and support around Edmonton. I truly believe we have a wonderful community.
Yesterday's event impacted me more than I could have expected.
I had fitted a few boys who had grads sooner, but yesterday was the first day we would have multiple kids coming. Sterling was there to help out again. He has an unreal eye for fashion and he ensured we measured the kids properly and had them in a suit that would look great.
My mother-in-law Cheryl and her friend Pat were a huge help. They took all the measurements, filled out the forms and helped the boys with shirts, ties and everything else. At lunch time these wonderful ladies walked across the street and bought bags of brand new dress socks. This was our first year and we did forget somethings, socks, and it was such a wonderful gesture on their part. Thanks Pat and Cheryl.
The boys started to arrive at 10 a.m. and the last ones left around 3 p.m. They showed up with a parent or with a teacher from their school.
These young gentlemen made the day.
They were all incredibly polite, well-mannered and gracious. I was able to talk with each of them and find out something different about them.
They all had a different story and a different personality, and were all a bit shy at first, but they warmed up as the fitting went along. It sure helped that Eddie from Papa Johns Pizza showed up with Pizza for everyone. There is no better icebreaker than offering up a 17-year-old boy pizza. Thanks Eddie for the food.
I could tell a story about each of them -- they all had unique stories and backgrounds -- but for me this one story sums up the day.
This is why you donated your suits or money.
Peter (not his real name) was a bit quiet, but very polite when he walked in the door. He was one of those boys that society had let fall through the cracks. He'd been through numerous foster homes in his life and never had a great role model. To put it politely he'd had a real tough life. He had suffered a bad accident recently and now he needs a wheelchair to get around most of the time.
But yesterday, Peter walked into our warehouse, with the help of a cane, with his head up and a smile on his face. Cheryl and Pat took down his information and then he walked over to the suits with Sterling. Sterling measured his chest, neck and waist and showed Peter a few options.
He picked out a nice grey suit. Sterling matched him with a sharp red shirt and a snappy tie. Peter went to our change room, sat down and changed. Sterling had to help him do up a few buttons on his shirt. He came out of the change room, Sterling tied his tie and then Peter walked slowly to the mirror.
I happened to be standing at an angle that allowed me to see his face when he saw his refection in the mirror. His face lit up as he stared in the mirror. I saw his eyes look at his tie, slide down to his chest and then down to his feet.
He had never seen himself in a suit before, and for that moment you could see pure joy.
That moment made it worthwhile for me. I had to turn away, because I didn't want him to see the tears in my eyes. Witnessing that much joy and happiness in others is a wonderful thing, and it wouldn't have happened without the help and support of so many of you. I wish you could have seen his face.
Traci and I want to thank all of you who donated suits, money or your time for helping these young boys. You helped make a special event, graduation, even better. For some of them they are the first generation in their family to graduate from high school, and that is a wonderful accomplishment. Others are just in need of some help to cover the financial cost of a suit, and with your help we were able to lessen that burden.
To Peter and all of the boys. Thanks for being so polite and fun yesterday. You said thank you more often than you needed to, and we look forward to seeing your grad pictures.