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Former pro baseball player Sam DiMatteo brings 40 pairs of soccer spikes to orphans in Africa

COURTESY THE SD PROJECT

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The sound of a bat hitting a baseball is more than just a striking noise for Sam DiMatteo — it’s an electrifying harmony that serves as the heartbeat to his total existence.

A Pittsburgh native, 30-year-old DiMatteo played ball his entire life. After swinging the bat on the college level for California University of Pennsylvania, DiMatteo played for several professional baseball teams over a six-year period, before retiring with the California-based Sonoma Stompers in 2016. Now the hitting coach for the Palm Springs Power in the Southern Californian Collegiate Baseball League, DiMatteo finds himself reaching out to underprivileged youth around the world with his non-profit The SD Project because he doesn’t want to see kids miss out on opportunities that shaped him into the person he is today.

Sam DiMatteo, pictured right in September, surprised Jace, also pictured, with new clothes in Dickinson, Texas, after Hurricane Harvey destroyed his family’s home.

“When you’re young, you’re not mentally tough yet,” DiMatteo said in a phone conversation. “Participating in an organized sport teaches you important life lessons. When you’re playing sports, you learn how to fail. You have to learn how to compete to win. You learn how to get better at something through practice and hard work. You learn social skills from interacting with your team.”

There’s even scientific evidence to back up the benefits of kids participating in organized, competitive sports. A recent study at the American College of Sports Medicine discovered the fittest kids performed nearly 30 percent higher on standardized tests than the least-fit group.

DiMatteo said he encountered a family who almost had to take their son out of baseball when he was teaching at a sports facility during off-season in 2014

“This kid’s parents pulled me aside asking if they could pay at the end of the month. The end of the month came, and it was the same deal. They needed more time to pay,” he said. “Their kid had a bone disease that required him to stay active or he’d get really sore. They told me they were thinking of taking him out of baseball and putting him in ballet because it was a less expensive option. I didn’t want to see this kid who loved playing sports be forced into taking ballet, so I said I’d handle it.”

At the suggestion of a friend, he started a GoFundMe page and called it The SD Project. Instead of making the fundraiser specific to that family, he broadened his request in case he ever ran into the same situation again.

It worked out.

Proving a small deed can turn into something bigger, The SD Project has evolved into a certified non-profit organization dedicated to spreading the unifying and uplifting experience of participating in a sport to today’s youth suffering economic hardship or a physical or mental disability.

Sam DiMatteo, far right, visited Chicago with his former teammate Richie Serritella, far left, to empower a little boy, Leo, with one arm, pictured center, to keep playing sports.

Three years later, The SD Project has raised nearly $30,000 from the GoFundMe page, generous donations and T-Shirt sales.

DiMatteo took The SD Project to the House of Hope orphanage in Africa last month, where he showed up with 40 pairs of soccer spikes, jerseys and sports equipment for more than 20 disadvantaged orphans.

Sam DiMatteo with 40 pairs of Under Armour spikes for The SD Project’s September 2017 trip to Africa.

DiMatteo said most of the orphans greeted him barefoot with old, ripped clothing. But for a few hours, they were running around in brand new spikes and clean clothes, temporarily unmindful of their usual harsh realities, such as not having electricity at night.

“They were able to escape and just be kids for a few hours and run around and play,” he said. “That’s what The SD Project is all about.”

Anyone interested in donating to support The SD Project can click here for a direct link to the GoFundMe page. 

 

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These Brooklyn Roommates Started a Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan Museum in their Hallway

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Courtesy THNK1994 Museum

Bert and Ernie may appear to be the epitome of roommate goals, but their moment was outdone the day best friends Matt Harkins and Viviana Olen turned their apartment’s hallway into a museum tributing Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan.

Sorry, Bert. Sorry, Ernie.

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To this day, their has never been an incident like Tonya and Nancy’s in the history of sports. On January 6, 1994, Nancy Kerrigan was attacked with a baton to the knee — the day before a championship that would decide who qualified to move on to the Winter Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway. It turned out the assaulter was hired by Jeff Gillooly, the ex-husband of her opponent, Tonya Harding.

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Though Tonya claims her innocence in the premeditation of the violent attack, the court of public opinion has been questioning her involvement for more than 20 years — solidifying the scandal’s impression on popular culture.

Matt and Viviana told Better than the Weekend the idea of curating a museum centered around Tonya and Nancy started as a joke.

“We had just watched a documentary called The Price of Gold,” Matt said.

“We both had a memory of what had happened, but both remember Nancy Kerrigan portrayed by the media as this ice princess and Tonya as this white trash,” Viviana added.

The documentary featured interviews with Tonya, portraying the skater as a sympathetic, working-class girl with an alcoholic mother, strong work ethic and record-breaking talent.

After watching the doc, their perspective of the incident changed and they were reminded Tonya and Nancy were fascinating aside from the scandal.

“We wanted to highlight them as strong female athletes, because when it comes down to it, that’s what they are,” Viviana said.

The project started with a Kickstarter asking for $75 to help them blow up pictures of the Olympians. But then people started reaching out with artifacts and fan art.

Courtesy THNK1994 Museum

More than 20 artifacts were collected for the exhibit, including scoring sheets from the arena where Nancy was attacked, signed head shots of the skaters purchased on eBay and a TV Guide featuring an interview with Nancy that was signed by the interviewer. There’s even decoupaged Wheaties boxes with Tonya plastered on them, which were supposed to be sold but were never released due to the incident.

Courtesy THNK1994 Museum

Matt and Viviana welcomed more than 1,000 spectators into their apartment between 2015 to 2017 to witness the unique exhibit before moving the project to a storefront deemed the THNK1994 Museum.

What started out as a joke evolved into a full-time career path of turning tabloid stories into works of art.

Courtesy THNK1994 Museum

“We try to focus on exhibits that look at women who are really confident and torn down about that and celebrate them while also giving a platform to LGBT artists,” Viviana said.

The THNK1994 Museum has also featured exhibits on the Olsen twins hiding from the paparazzi, Nicole Richie’s 2007 Memorial Day BBQ, Kim Cattrall, and The Real Housewives pointing fingers. 

Courtesy THNK1994 Museum

General admission to the Brooklyn museum is $6 per person, $3 for students. Year-long memberships start at only $30.

Matt says it’s necessary for the besties to show the world that just because something seems funny and absurd doesn’t mean it can’t be taken seriously.

Amen to that!

Courtesy THNK1994 Museum

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Why Camp No Counselors Founder Adam Tichauer Is the Godfather of Adulting

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PHOTO COURTESY CAMP NO COUNSELORS

Adam Tichauer is the dude who will make you want to adult today.

Adam Tichauer, founder of Camp No Counselors.

Remember that wholesome face in case you ever see him out in public. If you happen to, you need to buy him a drink and shake his hand. Here’s why. He’s the founder of Camp No Counselors, a sleep-away camp for grown-ups, which turned a nostalgic adolescent experience into perhaps the most genius startup operation of the decade. Just imagine a remote place in the mountains where sex, bottomless booze, sports, lip-sync battles and late-night partying is not only welcomed, it’s celebrated with a fucking high-five and chest bump. Sounds like heaven, right?

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In just three years, Camp No Counselors has seen breakneck success at such a remarkable rate that Adam boldly turned down an investment offer from Mark Cuban on “Shark Tank.” Almost 10,000 adults experienced Adam’s wonderland of epic fun at more than 40 camps across the USA and Canada — including Better than the Weekend’s staff — and business is only expanding. Camp No Counselors’s recently rang in 2018 with its first-ever New Year’s Eve warm-weather getaway camp in Malibu, complete with a wine-tasting safari ride, surf lessons, goat yoga, and a ton of liquor, duh!

Photo courtesy Camp No Counselors

Photo courtesy Camp No Counselors

Adam told Better than the Weekend his legendary creation happened by accident. It was 2013 and the then 30-year-old was running a music tech company in New York. When the grind consumed him to the point where he realized he hadn’t connected with some of his closest friends in months, he decided to do something gnarly about it.

“I found myself working on July 4th weekend. The Fourth of July is about getting out of the city and barbecuing and having some beers with your friends and just forgetting about work, but I was doing the exact opposite,” Adam said. “So, for the next long weekend, which was Labor Day weekend, I wanted to organize some kind of event where we would get out of the city and I would see my friends and we would barbecue and have some beers and forget about work.”

Adam figured out the perfect outlet to let off some steam — summer camp! Growing up, camp was the time of year he’d look forward to the most. So, he called around and found a camp only a few hours north of Manhattan that would allow him and his closest friends to stay and experience the same fun he had at camp as a kid, with a lot more freedom! The weekend was such a success, that his friends, and there friends, and there friends’ friends, had a winter camp at a ski lodge in Vermont.

“Some fairly influential people in the tech world were there and they asked, ‘Hey, this was the best weekend of our lives. Can you organize one of these in the summer for me and my friends?'” Adam said. “That’s when the lightbulb went off. If cutting-edge people want me to organize one of these for them and their influential friends, then maybe this is a service people really need and they would pay for and value.”

Photo courtesy Camp No Counselors

And people are valuing the lively separation from reality — but you’ll never know what they’re escaping. The only rule that stands strong is to not talk about what you do for a living. (So no need for a disguise.)

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“As a thirty-something, you meet someone at a bar and you say, ‘What do you do?’ And then you think, ‘Okay, I get you. I know who you are because of what you do’,” Adam noted. “I found when you remove your work identity, you are able to become whoever you want to become, and then you can make friends based on your interests like when you were a kid — not your preconceived notion of what an investment banker likes to do on his free time. As a kid, you didn’t do anything for a living, except have fun and make friends based on similar interests.”

I know, that quote has me thinking Adam Tichauer 2020, too.

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Disconnecting from who you are is perhaps more important now than ever.

“Back in the day, when you didn’t have the newspaper in front of you, you didn’t think about what was going on in the world. When you weren’t at work, you didn’t have to think about work,” Adam said. “Now, we’re getting constant real-time notifications of what’s going on in the world, or e-mails from your boss, even if it’s after work hours. There’s very few times you can shut that off and just have space and not have to worry about what real-time, negative notifications are coming through your phone next.”

Thank God, whoever he or she may be, for the godfather of adulting.

Registration for this year’s camps is now open. Just click right here and thank us later!

We’ll see you there! (We just won’t tell you what we do. Too many cups of beer to chug and flip!)

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Let’s help the Scranton PA Fire Dept. build state’s first fallen firefighter memorial

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While Americans are divided about whether or not the government should build a wall around the Mexican border, because, you know, “Americans are dreamers, too,” Scranton, Pennsylvania firefighters seem to have their priorities in check. The brave first responders of the Scranton Fire Department are working overtime to help construct the first-ever memorial in the state of Pennsylvania to honor the professional firefighters who lost their lives in the line of duty.

They recently stopped by Better than the Weekend HQ for a livestreamed interview to share how everyone can help their mission, proving instantly why they’re more than just people who fight fires. They’re also heroes.

Here’s the link (right here) to help out in any way you can. Now share this with everyone you know to help this project reach fruition.

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