Like so many, Vic Maurer, a Chicago-area resident, was deeply affected by the shooting that left 17 dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
And like many, he was inspired by the #NeverAgain movement driven by the students who survived.
That movement spawned historic developments, including new gun sale policies at retail giant Dick’s Sporting Goods, then Walmart; high-profile companies ending corporate partnerships with the National Rifle Association; and Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Friday signing that state’s first gun control legislation in 22 years.
“Like a lot of people, when I heard the news that Dick’s Sporting Goods was going to stop selling assault rifles and increase the age at which they would sell guns at their stores, I applauded their decision,” said Maurer, 34, of the northwest suburbs.
But there has been backlash. The NRA immediately sued the state of Florida, and Dick’s faces lawsuits in Oregon and Michigan over its decision to stop selling guns to buyers under 21. Walmart faces a similar suit in Oregon.
“I happen to be really happy with the Dick’s decision and wanted to thank them,” said Maurer, who put up a GoFundMe page last week, seeking to raise $3,500 to buy sports equipment at Dick’s for Chicago’s oldest Boys & Girls Club.
“Clearly, money talks, but I didn’t just want to shop for myself. I wanted to pay it forward,” Maurer said.
He got the idea from college buddies in Lansing, Mich., who also wanted to support the Stoneman Douglas students and a national groundswell for change. Those friends raised $4,000 to buy sports equipment from their local Dick’s that they donated to the Lansing Public School District.
In Chicago, where guns daily wreak havoc on youth in poverty-stricken pockets of the South and West sides, Maurer saw an opportunity to further connect those dots by helping kids exposed to the never-ending violence.
“Parkland has been kind of a tipping point. I’m inspired by the courage of those students, and I think it’s well past time we support them,” Maurer said.
Maurer had in the past volunteered at the West Side’s Off The Street Club, 25 N. Karlov Ave. He learned their 35-year-old roller hockey program was in dire straits; skates, pucks, sticks, masks, goals, goalie equipment — even whistles — were on their last legs.
When he heard of the effort, Maurer’s good friend, Chris Mundy, a longtime benefactor of that club, pledged to match the first $1,000.
“I wanted to lead by example,” said Mundy, a real estate broker for @properties. “If we can’t support the children in our community, then I don’t know where we are. Our politicians seem to be struggling with the gun control issue nationally, so it’s refreshing to see corporations stepping up and taking a leadership role.”
By Friday, Maurer surpassed his goal — $3,655 from 69 donors. A bunch of folks, including random strangers, also pledged to show up this Friday, March 16, to help with the feel-good shopping spree at Dick’s store at 1538 N. Clybourn in Lincoln Park.
Arnett Morris, associate executive director of the 118-year-old club, is ecstatic. He and some of the kids are coming to help.
“This equipment will directly affect the lives of hundreds of young people on Chicago’s tough West Side for many years to come,” said Morris. “We serve about 300 to 400 youth daily, and 96 percent of them, through family or friends, have been affected by gun violence. Our mission is to provide help for today and hope for tomorrow for inner-city children — who, like all kids, have a right to feel safe and to experience casual joy.”
When the Sun-Times contacted Dick’s Sporting Goods for a comment, the company said it would match the $3,500 and give the club a 20 percent discount.
“Thank you to everyone involved in this initiative. We are so inspired and moved by what you and so many others in Chicago and across the country are doing to help protect and support the young people in your communities,” Jeremiah Zimmer, Dick’s Chicago Community Marketing Manager, emailed on Friday.
The club had $7,155 to spend, as of Friday. Maurer is happy to have made a difference, though he had just hoped to make a statement.
“We’re doing something helpful but also creating the opportunity to talk about gun violence in Chicago,” he said. “The dissociation between folks in places that are very comfortable and removed, and communities that are just being devastated by something we should have gotten a handle on many, many years ago, is really tragic.”