Tom Hanley has never done things the conventional way.
(We’ll share his story a bit later).
Right now, the Nine13sports founder and his staff are addressing an urgent concern: helping nonprofits on the coronavirus front lines transport food, medical supplies and cleaning goods to people in need.
“We have a couple of things going for us,” said Hanley, describing Nine13’s resourceful approach to helping organizations like Gleaners Food Bank, Midwest Food Bank and the American Red Cross Indiana Region. “They include 11 fantastic team members and a fleet of trucks, vans and trailers.”
Hanley and team are partnering with Gleaners to deliver 1,000 boxes of food each week to families served by Indianapolis Public Schools. They are also moving supplies for the Red Cross.
It’s been all hands on deck to do whatever we can.
Tom Hanley, Founder and CEO of Nine13sports
“Our Chief Operating Officer delivered surgical masks and respirators to Evansville,” said Hanley. “I am driving cleaning supplies to Fort Wayne. It’s been all hands on deck to do whatever we can.”
For Hanley, the pivot from his usual business model of running a youth-focused nonprofit to coordinating operations and logistics occurred quickly.
As in less than 48 hours.
“We moved very fast,” Hanley noted. “We knew the need was immediate.”
As the impact of COVID-19 began to increase, Hanley reached out to Indianapolis community agencies asking who could benefit from their staff, vehicle fleet and depot storage space that traditionally houses their Sprinter vans and bicycle trailers. He immediately heard back from three.
In less than two weeks, Nine13’s efforts have resulted in delivering 25,000 pounds of food to a dozen agencies, including Flanner House, a community center serving low- and moderate-income families.
Nine13 has also dropped off food pallets to families whose children attend Global Prep Indy, an elementary school just two miles from the nonprofit’s office.
Given the urgent need, the number of partner sites will grow to three dozen, with the food distribution surpassing 60,000 pounds – and counting – in the weeks ahead.
“The organizations on the front lines have the supplies but not enough transportation resources to get them where they need to go right now,” said Hanley. “We could offer a turnkey solution.”
In addition to supporting the community, Hanley views the unique partnerships as a meaningful way to keep his team members busy and employed. It’s a team he began building in 2012 following unimaginable circumstances.
This is where we return to Hanley’s story and unconventional methods.
Hanley had been a national college cycling champion. But a car accident on his 2010 wedding day changed everything.
“I lost my best friend,” reflects Hanley on the death of his best man. “And I sustained serious injuries. But I didn’t want to be bitter about it ending my cycling career. I wanted to create something positive from it.”
He certainly has.
Hanley channeled his passion for cycling into forming Nine13sports and the Kids Riding Bikes program, which takes a biking simulator to schools and offers children the chance to experience the thrill of riding that Hanley once knew. For some students, it’s their first experience of riding a bicycle, due to economic challenges.
“I refer to the bike as ‘the ultimate equalizer,’” said Hanley. “It doesn’t matter where you live or what your background is. A bicycle is something everyone can enjoy. We want to bring that experience to as many students as possible.”
Today, Nine13 offers more than 50,000 Central Indiana students the chance to learn the value of teamwork and perseverance while experiencing that cycling joy through its Kids Riding Bikes program. In recent years, Hanley and team have found additional ways to use the bicycle as an educational tool, expanding their programming to three more initiatives: Kids Building Bikes, ExploreIndy Rides and a STEM-focused program.
Regions has worked with Nine13 as a community partner since 2014. The collaboration has included funding support to take the bikes to several school partners, including the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Nine13 has also offered cycling programs as part of the Special Olympics Indiana Summer Games.
“Our team is focused on being a community partner who says ‘yes’ to the unexpected,” said Hanley. “We’re committed to finding ways to make things happen.”
Sitting on the sidelines is something Hanley and team don’t do. Ever. But especially now.
“Our nonprofit partners have an immense need for something we can provide,” said Hanley. “With that increased demand, no one has the capacity to transport these items on their own. We can help agencies focus on what they do best – feeding people and getting essential supplies into the hands of those who need them most.”
In these unprecedented times, it’s an unconventional partnership approach. And it’s one that defines Hanley and the entire Nine13 team.