More than 30 years after their paths first crossed, Dave Lenti, Tim Heitmann and Eric Washington are still finding ways to work together.
Then it was with Mount Carmel football. Lenti was just starting a coaching career now in its fourth decade; he’s the defensive coordinator for the reigning Class 7A champion Caravan. Heitmann and Washington were teammates on Mount Carmel’s state finalist team in 1986.
Last September, Lenti teamed up again with Heitmann when he left Mount Carmel after 35 years as a teacher and fundraiser to become vice president for high school partnerships at Double Good. That’s the company Heitmann started in 1998, 10 years after he and Washington graduated from Mount Carmel.
“We had this technology and this product — it worked really well,” Heitmann said. “But not a lot of people knew about it. Here comes David [who] has the ability that people listen to him. All he has to do is say, ‘Do this, it works.’”
Double Good’s product is gourmet popcorn. Its technology is a platform that allows its partners to sell the popcorn, with the proceeds split 50-50.
In their current role, Lenti and Heitmann reconnected with Washington, who has worked with Double Good on several projects in his current role as Bremen’s athletic director.
“Pre-COVID, we were working with a lot of high schools — cheerleading programs and athletic programs,” Lenti said. “When COVID came around and all those youth sports and high school sports were canceled, Double Good had to do a pivot. We started working with small non-profits with COVID relief, helping first responders and health care workers.”
Washington has worked with Double Good both before and after the pandemic shut down sports. Bremen’s wrestling program was a particular success story, raising $6,000 for various team gear.
After Illinois schools closed and went to a distance learning model, Washington was part of Bremen’s initiative to provide meals for district students.
“We were trying to come up with some different things [to help],” Washington said. “We knew they were struggling a little bit.”
So Washington approached Double Good, asking to buy 100 bags of popcorn to distribute. “[Heitmann] came back and said, ‘We’re going to donate 100 bags,’” Washington said.
That dovetails with Double Good’s mission, according to Heitmann. “Start with the give,” he said. “We’ve really grown by first giving the product away. We know that when people have it, it turns into good things.’
With Illinois’ reopening plan now in Phase Three, Lenti and Heitmann are looking forward to working with youth and high school teams again. Under phase three, youth sports practices will be allowed to resume in small groups though games won’t be allowed yet. The Illinois High School Association is currently allowing teams to workout in small groups during the first stage of its Return To Play plan.
“We’re starting to get phone calls from cheerleading coaches, cross country coaches, even some football coaches,” Lenti said. “They’re still buying their new uniforms, helmets, equipment. I think there’s a confidence level that things will be returning in the fall.”