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SUNY Jamestown Community College
Jacob Hordych has a passion for collecting sports trading cards and autographs. The director of the Sport Management program and assistant professor at SUNY Jamestown Community College has carried that spirit to many of his students.
And, by extension, they have learned how sports can be a catalyst for change.
For the third straight year, students in Hordych’s Sport in Society fall semester course gathered sports and celebrity autographs to donate to Autographs for a Cure, a nonprofit organization that raises funds and brings awareness to fighting cancer.
They doubled their efforts this past fall through a similar donation to Signatures for Soldiers, which helps disabled and homeless veterans.
“We look at how sport can be a catalyst for change, whether it be small, simple changes or acknowledgements – or it can be big social movements,” Hordych said. “We talk about that in class, and I want to give them opportunities to apply their learning.”
Autographs returned this past fall came from former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, Alabama football coach Nick Saban, baseball hall of famers Wade Boggs and Carlton Fisk, and NBA legend Rick Barry.
The students collected 147 autographs in all, up from 100 last year and 48 the year before.
“We’ve been upping the game,” Hordych said, “and I wanted to be a bit more proactive this year with having to split them between two organizations.”
Hordych said students collect autographs through the mail using a database he has access to that has addresses for players, celebrities, coaches, and sports general managers.
“They go through and find out who signs, who signs relatively quickly, who they like, and who they think could create some funds for these organizations, “Hordych said.
The students write their own letters to five to eight sports celebrities and include either a trading card, a small photo of the person, or an index card provided by Hordych to send with a self-addressed return envelope.
Hordych said that many students are naturally motivated by the project because they know someone who has been impacted by cancer or have a friend or family member who has served in the military.
They are also excited to open the returns and see the autographs.
“We use it as a fun pre-class five-minute activity to see what they got back,” Hordych said. “It’s a project that is a little bit applied learning but also gives them some self gratitude and opportunity to feel good about what they’re doing as well in helping to create change and support change.”