Days before Wisconsin is set to begin voluntary strength and conditioning activities, wide receiver Adam Krumholz and his girlfriend, Demitra Philosophos, have been busy with non-football responsibilities, all in hopes of making a greater impact in the community.
Friday’s itinerary included yet another Target trip for at least the 11th time, along with delivering a plethora of supplies to a local Madison organization dedicated to ending racial disparities through various programs and initiatives.
The two are working with the Nehemiah Center for Urban Leadership Development, an organization started in the mid-1990s "in response to the unmet social, academic and spiritual needs of at-risk and disenfranchised African American and biracial children in the greater Madison community."
A vast assortment of items have engulfed their living room floor, couch and table recently. Paper towels, toothpaste, toilet paper, bars of soap, deodorant, shampoo and conditioner all have been filled into paper bags as "essential kits" to give to families.
What started as a small fundraiser has blossomed into nearly $9,500 worth of donations and frequent trips to Targets around the Madison area. Like many impactful initiatives, a genuine mission coupled with expanded social media coverage has allowed them to reach many.
"It's kind of crazy because we started out, our first goal was $3,000," Philosophos told AllBadgers.com on Friday morning. "Then after our first drop off, Adam was like, ‘We need to raise the goal. I was like, ‘OK, should we do $5,000? He's like, ‘No, we got to do $10,000.'
"At first, I was so shocked. That's a lot of money, but he was right. We're already almost at $10,000, so we raised it again to $15,000.”
"Once the UW football team got in contact and shared it to the coaches and then posted on the internet, then it started blowing up more and more," added Krumholz. "Then once we showed exactly what we were doing, what the money was going into, then the money started flowing in, too.
"It just kind of took off from there."
The idea was sparked from Philosophos seeing friends pack lunches for communities in Chicago and felt the inspiration to do something within the city of Madison. Both she and Krumholz have attended one of the recent protests that have taken place in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, but they also wanted to give back in a more personal way.
According to Krumholz, Philosophos's friends gave them the idea to partner with Nehemiah. Along with a recommendation from her mother, she then started the GoFundMe fundraiser.
As stated on the page's link, Philosophos's goal was "to figure out how I can help with the racial inequities" within the Madison community.
"My mom knew of Nehemiah, and she thought it would be a good one to reach out to since they are fighting racial disparities in Madison," Philosophos said. "So we reached out, just kind of asked them what they needed. They do this handout on the first and last Thursday of every month for families within their network that they help out. They can come grab food and essentials.”
They have worked with Jacquelyn Hunt at Nehemiah, who returned to work with the organization about five years ago but is also a licensed professional counselor and clinical substance abuse counselor. She recalled how she started an initiative called "Random Acts of Kindness" a couple of years ago where she asked friends and community and social media partners to donate $20 that would go toward essential items and money for laundromats. She would drive with those kits in her car and hand them out.
Hunt explained that when Philosophos first reached out, she wanted to provide food. Being a partner with Second Harvest, that was not the biggest need.
"What I didn't have, and what I was lacking was the resources to provide the same essentials that went into the random acts of kindness basket," Hunt told AllBadgers.com on Saturday afternoon. "So I shared that with her. She said, 'OK, I'm gonna see what I can do.'
"Then the next thing I know she was calling me telling me that she had 43 (kits), and she needed a place to store them. We were going to give these essential bags out in conjunction with the next food giveaway, which is June 25."
As a student-athlete at UW, Krumholz confirmed that he received the go-ahead from UW's compliance department to take part in the fundraising effort. With the ongoing pandemic, he stated that with his free time, he has already made two trips to Costco and an estimated 10 visits to Target as of Friday morning.
Why so many runs to the popular retail chain? As some stores have restrictions on toilet paper in the area, or are running out of stock of various items, that has led to them frequently visiting various locations within the Madison area.
Even when working to buy many items in bulk, each "kit" costs between $30 to $35 to fully stock for the recipients. Along with the aforementioned products, each bag also holds a container of bleach, razors, cleaning solution, dish soap and feminine hygiene products.
As of Friday, Krumholz believes they have spent just over $3,000 to date.
“We've only done two trips to Costco, but every time we do it, we fill up, pile (up) three carts," Philosophos said.
“About a $1,000’s worth each trip," Krumholz added.
The two made their first drop off at the church next to Nehemiah's offices last week. According to Philosophos, however, Hunt said that even with bringing in 100 of the kits, "it's barely scratching the surface."
“I think hearing that really gave us motivation like, 'OK, we need to keep going with it, get our voice out,'" Philosophos said. "Because she was talking about how they have their normal families that they're in contact with, and they try to help out when they have this outreach program.
"But with COVID-19, there has just been so many families that have come into that circle as well, so many additional families. So really just realizing, ‘Yeah we're making an impact, and that's awesome,' but there are still so many families in Madison that really need these things."
Krumholz has seen support rise up from his football program as well, from coaches donating money to defensive end Isaiahh Loudermilk and his girlfriend, Emily Borgmann, helping pack supplies.
“Just the whole team in general has just been having our backs and supporting us along the way," Krumholz said.
According to the two UW-Madison students, Wisconsin football's strength and conditioning coach Ross Kolodziej might have his family and kids help bundle all the kits.
“He wants to get his kids involved, so the next time we pack, we might go over to his house or have him over here," Philosophos said.
On Friday, the two were set to deliver another 60 kits to Nehemiah, making it approximately 110 in all. As Philosophos and Krumholz continue to see donation totals and their journeys to Target increase, they have discussed what happens if the funds go higher and how it could change.
For now, both have decided to make these kits for as long as possible, but according to the two, the organization has also mentioned that they would like to add more valuable items. Those could include rolls of quarters for laundry and gift cards for gas and Uber trips.
“I know gas cards in general are a big, big need, and it is more expensive," Krumholz said. "But the more money we get, we can afford putting that into our kits.”
If the donations keep pouring in, Krumholz—the Stoughton native who walked on to Wisconsin and has played in 31 games heading into his final season—hopes to see the number of volunteers increase as well.
“I think if the money starts rolling in like you're thinking of, then we would have to get more hands on deck, for sure. More helpers.”
Wisconsin's Discussions About Death of George Floyd
The team has shown its support for the fundraiser, but the program has also recently talked about the death of Floyd.
On May 29, the Hennepin County Attorney's Office announced that former officer Derek Chauvin was initially arrested on charges of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter of Floyd, who died in police custody on May 25. Days later, a second-degree murder charge was filed.
A video surfaced thereafter, and the complaint's "Statement of Probable Cause" from May 29 says that Chauvin "placed his left knee in the area of Mr. Floyd’s head and neck" for eight minutes, 46 seconds.
On May 29, Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez released a statement on the death of Floyd. On June 2, UW's football head coach Paul Chryst and men's basketball coach Greg Gard followed suit via social media.
When discussing the calls with the football team, Krumholz noted that coaches and some of players have spoken.
“About two weeks ago, Coach Chryst addressed the team via a Zoom meeting," Krumholz said. "He sat down and he talked about everything that was going on, what we can do better, what each person can do better. Telling us to listen to especially our side as a black community, and try to educate yourself. I thought that was the right step. I thought that was awesome to hear that from him.
"Then the next week, we did the same thing, but each coach had something to say, something to mentor us, something to make us have peace."