When a new rule last year allowed college athletes to be compensated for the use of their name, image, and likeness, Margo Carlin was excited about the possibilities.
The 20-year-old from Drexel Hill who plays field hockey for Boston College landed a stick sponsorship from Y1 Hockey after the NCAA approved the compensation policy last summer. And good for her — college athletes should financially benefit from their hard work and talents, just as the institutions for which they play long have.
But Carlin also wanted to do a little good in the world.
“I’ve had many opportunities in my life,” she said when she called from school. “And I think it was important to help people that weren’t given the same opportunities as me.”
Carlin, the youngest of four children, turned to her parents for some advice.
“What else can I do that would be meaningful?” she asked.
Her mother, Suz, a therapist, and her father, Leo, an insurance executive, suggested she consider helping Covenant House, which serves young people facing homelessness in more than 30 cities, including Philadelphia, and six countries.
After all, her father had served on the board for years. And the family has a long history of involvement with the organization, including participating in the nonprofit’s annual “sleep outs,” an immersive experience meant to raise understanding and action around homelessness and trafficking among young people.
“We take making a difference very seriously,” said her father, Leo Carlin Jr., who is also president of the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation, established in 2006 to focus on issues of homelessness, affordable housing, and hunger.
Margo Carlin loved the idea. So she reached out to Kevin Ryan, president and CEO of Covenant House International.
Ryan conceded when we spoke last week that he wasn’t immediately sure how to make a partnership work, but was both intrigued and impressed.
“She completely took me by surprise,” Ryan recalled. “She said that she believed she had a platform that she could use on social media to help raise money for Covenant House and to help focus on the needs of other young people her age who aren’t thinking about college because they’re homeless on the streets and hungry.”
The organization gave her the green light and a little guidance from their own social media team. And Carlin wasted no time using her social media platforms, including Twitter and Instagram, to raise awareness about the nonprofit and to raise nearly $30,000 to help house and feed young people experiencing homelessness.
We’re just about a week past the national day of service to honor Martin Luther King Jr., and despite this country’s imperfect practice of marking the activist’s work with misplaced and misunderstood quotes, Carlin’s approach to collective community service is important.
But what her efforts also reinforce is how important it is for us, as individuals, to look for opportunities to serve those 364 other days of the year, when there is no holiday, no public pressure — just the possibility of making the world around us a little better.
To (accurately) quote something King said in a speech at Oberlin College in 1965:
“The time is always right to do right.”
And what better time is there than when you’ve been given an opportunity that you can — and should — use to help others?
Last I checked, Carlin is just a few thousand dollars from reaching her latest $30,000 goal — she wants to increase it as long as she can — but she hopes to continue her relationship with the organization.
“I am very aware of how fortunate I am, and this has provided me an opportunity to learn what it means to give back,” Carlin said. “I hope other athletes can see what it truly means to help other people and see how fortunate we are and reach out to those in need.”
Already, she’s helped Covenant House recognize the potential power in these partnerships.
Ryan said the organization has been talking to athletes in Los Angeles and New Orleans, pointing to Carlin’s work as inspiration.
“Margo’s given us a bit of a tool kit to show others this is what this could look like,” he said.
“It’s a master class for all of us in how one person at a time could create good in the world.”