The Giving Season

Megabolt

By - Nov 30th, 2010 04:00 am
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Photos courtesy of Megabolt.org

In late 2009, Milwaukee native Steven Kasprzyk and his friend Scott Lashay were both working unfulfilling jobs and, like most of us, trying to figure out what to do with their lives. The two had long held an idea that sounds so simple that it bordered on the quixotic. What if they could start a “positive club” that did good deeds for others while asking nothing in return?

Megabolt co-founder Steven Kasprzyk

“The whole thing started out as a total joke,” explains Kasprzyk. “We both had our jobs that we were bored with and it was this plan to just go do nice things for people. A few months later, one of my friend’s Dad was diagnosed with brain cancer and his family was hit with a ton of medical bills. I saw that an opportunity to help them out.”

Spurred to action, they decided to call their charitable group Megabolt, and designed a t-shirt to sell online. Kasprzyk says he figured they’d sell a few to friends and family, make a couple bucks, and call it a day. What happened next was beyond what either could have imagined. Blog sites, most notably www.omgposters.com, picked up the story and help to spread their cause across the U.S. and as far away as Australia and Great Britain.

Within two weeks, they had sold over 150 shirts. “People really latched onto it. It was kind of insane,” Kasprzyk said.

Kasprzyk attributes the success of the Megabolt to his own naïveté. “We just did our own thing,” admits the 24-year-old printmaker. “It’s helped us out in the long run because we aren’t afraid to try something different just because it might fail. The end result, regardless, is that we are going to raise money for people who need it.”

Since then, Kasprzyk and his friends have expanded Megabolt to include more designs, various apparel, poster art, stickers and more. Throughout all of their efforts says Kasprzyk, the aim is to promote positive thinking and community involvement.

Much of that community support has come from fellow artists, musicians and activists. One of those supporters just happens to be party rocker, Andrew WK. After designing a white ink on white “WK inspired” t-shirt, Kasprzyk was visiting his brother in NYC when he heard the rocker was doing a signing at a local Best Buy.

“I went and brought a few of the shirts for him to sign. When he looked at them he knew what Megabolt was and was really excited about it! It was completely surreal because we had been trying, without luck, to get a hold of him but he knew all about us. He told me he found out about us because his lawyers were asking if he wanted to issue a cease and desist letter. He said not to because he thought we were a cool organization!”

Currently Megabolt is continuing its admirable exploits by working with the Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis. The incentive again came from a tragedy connected to one of Kasprzyk’s friends.

Auden Van Laeken for Megabolt

In October of 2008, Makenna Van Laeken was born with Neonatal Hemochromatosis, a rare disorder that causes an excess of iron in the liver and eventually liver failure. Makenna was treated at the Riley Children’s Hospital for six weeks before she died on December 3, 2008. Makenna was the niece of Steven’s friend Justin Van Laeken.

“Justin’s 7-year-old son Auden has always been doing art…so we decided to do this print to benefit his cousin that passed away,” said Kasprzyk. “It was incredible to see how excited he was about it. He’s just a super-positive kid who’s looking out to help people, so it just made sense.”

The print is available as a poster and a shirt, but Megabolt isn’t stopping there.

Kasprzyk says he and Megabolt will be presenting the hospital with a check this coming January, and spending the day doing art with kids. Megabolt plans to tour children’s hospitals across the country, helping the kids make art, and documenting the experience in a book.

“The thing I’ve found with charity is that most people want to know what’s happening with their money,” Kasprzyk says. “We want to break down the wall of just having people buy something and then, that’s it. Our supporters definitely have a say in what we are doing.”

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