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Play hard, give back: Smaine plays part in Idaho nonprofit’s aim to start athletics movement

Anthony Gentile
agentile@tahoedailytribune.com
South Lake Tahoe skier Kyle Smaine is one of the elite athletes that has partnered up with Play Hard Give Back, an Idaho nonprofit that aims to start a movement within the athletic community.
Courtesy Matt Berkowitz |

Play Hard Give Back aims to start a movement within the athletic community, and has a local freeskiing star within its ranks. The Idaho-based nonprofit raises funds for athletes and social causes alike through selling healthy snacks, and South Lake Tahoe’s Kyle Smaine is one of the athletes that is a part of its early stages.

“We’re aiming to create a culture among athletes surrounding the importance of giving back,” Play Hard Give Back co-founder Spencer Brendel said, “while helping them fuel their goals at the same time as aligning with a social cause or give-back effort.”

Brendel founded Play Hard Give Back along with his father, Jeff Brendel, in 2012 during a road trip along the California coast. After receiving a Wild Gift entrepreneurial grant in Idaho then using it as his senior project at St. Thomas University in Minnesota, Brendel got the company off the ground.

“We were trying to find a way of still working in the athletic community while at the same time giving back to social causes and community projects that we felt were important,” Brendel said.

“We’re aiming to create a culture among athletes surrounding the importance of giving back.”Spencer BrendelPlay Hard Give Back co-founder

Play Hard Give Back raises funds by selling subscriptions to sports bars and trail mix on its website on behalf of an athlete of the customer’s choosing. Products range in price from $19.95 to $49.95 per month, with 25 percent of those prices going toward the athletes, their causes or both.

“We’re taking that retail profit margin out that a normal retailer would keep and going directly to the consumer — we’re directing that toward the athlete’s cause,” Brendel said. “Most people snack on trail mix and bars, so why not snack through someone that you want to support as well as a social cause.”

Play Hard Give Back involves two separate categories of athletes — youth and elite. For youth athletes, the company offers a novel method of fundraising while helping support youth sports organizations — by March it plans to support nearly 500 athletes.

“The fundraising model of going door-to-door and selling unhealthy and unrelated products for a kid hasn’t changed in 30 years,” Brendel said. “We thought it would be a perfect opportunity to disrupt that category and capitalize on providing a cool, hip platform for kids to sell products online that are healthy.”

In the youth model, money raised from online sales goes back to the individual athletes and teams to use in whatever way they desire. And by fundraising on the Internet, PHGB allows the organizations to have a greater reach.

“We’re trying to teach the kids that it’s definitely a privilege to play the sports that they do and travel to the amazing places that they do, so if they can help their parents that are supporting them why not do it,” Brendel said.

For the elite athletes affiliated with Play Hard Give Back, the company allows them to be supported while aligning with a social cause. Those athletes are given the option to donate 100 percent of the net proceeds to a cause of their choosing or giving half to a charity while keeping half to sustain their careers.

“The elite athletes are role models for these younger kids — by being part of the same community, they’re able to make a difference in these young athletes’ lives,” Jeff Brendel said. “We see it as a movement within the athletic community and it starts with the elite athletes.”

Smaine falls into the elite athlete category, and donates 50 percent of the profits to the High Fives Foundation in Truckee, Calif. The reigning world champion in the halfpipe, Smaine supports an organization that raises raising injury prevention awareness while providing resources and inspiration to those who suffer life- altering injuries.

“He doesn’t have a lot of income to where he can just write a check to one of the foundations he is working with, or his schedule is way too busy for him to go and volunteer a weekend,” Brendel said. “We circled around with each other and connected the dots.”

Play Hard Give Back is still growing as a company, and eventually plans to spread throughout the nation. It currently has a roster of nearly 40 elite athletes, and is launching a Kickstarter campaign beginning March 4 to raise additional capital.

“We’re still a young company and trying to figure out the systems and dialing it in a little bit tighter,” Brendel said. “We have really big aspirations to be a national brand that opens up other avenues.”

For more information on Play Hard Give Back, visit http://www.playhardgiveback.com. PHGB is also on Facebook (playhardgiveback), Twitter (@PHGBgives) and Instagram (@playhardgiveback).


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