|This boy from Haiti shows off his brand new Penguins hat he received through 'Hat Tricks 4 Humanity.'
Earlier this season PittsburghPenguins.com brought you the story of Mike Behme
, a local Boy Scout from Troop 830 in Clinton, Pa. Behme collects hats following hat tricks at Mellon Arena, refurbishes them and then makes donations to disadvantaged youth throughout the world.
Thanks to four more hat tricks at Mellon Arena, a freshly-launched website and features on KDKA, ESPN and The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
, among others, Behme’s operation has taken off since we last caught up to him.
To rehash, when we originally talked to Behme following Sidney Crosby
’s first hat trick of the season on Oct. 28, the high school freshman from West Allegheny had gathered and donated 886 hats. His goal was to reach 2,500 hats, which would help him earn a prestigious Eagle Scout honor.
Three months later, Behme has not only surpassed the 2,500 benchmark, he has blown that number away. Prior to factoring in the hats from Crosby’s most recent three-goal performance on Feb. 1, Behme’s project, Hat Tricks 4 Humanity, had collected a whopping 3,906 hats!
“We have passed that by double,” Behme said. “We have a little under 4,000 hats right now. We actually had originally set the goal to 5,000, but at the time we thought that was a bit unrealistic so we changed it to 2,500. We were right on the bubble and we had a hat drive at my school which drew in 300 more. After that we passed our goal, but I want to keep going with it because it is such a good cause.”
Behme said they never believed the project would take off this quickly when he first began collecting the headwear following a Chris Kunitz
hat trick on March 15, 2009 (actually, Kunitz later lost his hat trick, but the 168 hats still counted).
“There has been a lot more than we expected to get when we first started,” Behme said. “We thought hat tricks were so few and far between that we could not just go on (with the project) with just hat tricks. Had we foreseen this we probably wouldn’t have had to write donation letters to family, friends and neighbors.”
Behme’s cause he gotten tremendous support around the city of Pittsburgh. Following our profile on him, which included an article and PensTV feature, Behme became a semi-celebrity. His media gauntlet included a segment on ESPN’s highly popular “First Take,” where Behme was interviewed by Dana Jacobson.
“After you guys did the first interview I had an email address and it just started getting flooded by people asking daily if they could donate, get hats for their mission or to donate money,” Behme said. “With each new platform that I have spoken on, we have just gotten more and more (hats). After the KDKA interview (aired) I went to (play) hockey. We probably had 30 e-mails from people when I came home that night.”
|These children from the Dominican Republic compare their new hats with one another. |
Behme received another great surprise to help his program when his head coach, Tony Franzetta, surprised him with a website donated by Franzetta’s design company, Vision Creative.
“The website and the design were like a $2,000 cost and it was donated to us,” Behme said. “It is a great site. He exceeded my expectations with everything so I owe a big thanks to him.”
The site, www.HatTricks4Humanity.org
, answers every question a fan could have about Behme’s operation. It includes a counter tabulating the number of hats donated and received, a hat of the month (you have to check out this month’s), pictures of children from Guatemala and Nicaragua sporting the cleaned hats, FAQs and a place where fans or organizations can make or request donations.
“There is a little button where people can click to donate,” Behme said. “An e-mail will come through the site’s e-mail address which is linked to my address. From there people can ask me for donations or to make donations. (My coach) said that (the site) got a bunch of hits after the KDKA interview, including one from Russia.”
Among the local foundations Behme has donated to include Holy Family Institute, Imperial Food Pantry and Pressley Ridge. Internationally, he has sent hats to Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
Behme said his program actually made a 200-hat donation to Haiti shortly before a Jan. 12 earthquake rocked the country’s capital city of Port-au Prince. With the country now struggling to rebuild itself following the devastation, Behme says it’s a “top priority to get hats back there now.”
Having the unique opportunity to make a difference in the lives of people such as those suffering in Haiti has driven Behme to continue forward with his project despite already collecting enough hats to apply for his Eagle Scout later this summer.
“We were a little pessimistic at the beginning,” Behme said. “We didn’t know we were going to be able to get that many hats. I never thought that I would want to continue with it. I thought it would be like all the other Eagle Scout projects I heard about where you finish it and it’s done. People can enjoy what you did, but you don’t keep on going with it afterwards.
|Mike Behme, founder of 'Hat Tricks 4 Humanity,' poses for a picture with the Penguins Sidney Crosby. |
“I got letters from a school we donated to and they sent homemade thank you cards. That was really touching because it shows that they really enjoy this. It makes you want to continue such a great cause.”
Behme’s great cause will continue to be a success as long as Crosby, who leads the NHL with three hat tricks this season, and company continue racking up three-goal games. When Behme came to Mellon Arena in early February to pick up hats from Crosby’s most recent hat trick, he was able to catch up with the Penguins superstar.
“He was leaving practice and there were a bunch of people around,” Behme said. “When I told them that I was the kid collecting the hats, Sid kind of had a little recognition of me. He said it was a good thing and he is glad the hats get somewhere. I told him that he is a big contributor. It was just a short, little conversation.
“He said ‘I will try to get you another one.’”If you would like to make a donation to Mike Behme’s Hat Tricks 4 Humanity project send him an email at email@example.com or visit www.HatTricks4Humanity.org.