When Travis Hollman launched the Locker Room Contest, inviting students to send videos of their outdated locker rooms, he had planned to gift the winning school only with new lockers. But when he saw the video tour of Beecher High School in Flint, Michigan, he was motivated to do much more.
“They had no plumbing, no doors on the bathroom stalls, no place to study, no recreation room, and no internet access,” Hollman said in an interview. “The school is so nice now. We’ve got heating, plumbing, doors on the bathroom stalls, and we’re finishing the rec room floor and putting in basketball nets.”
Hollman is the founder and CEO of Hollman in Irving, Texas, the leading manufacturer of team sports, fitness workspace, and custom lockers. Together with his colleague Daniel Gilbert, co-founder of Quicken Loans and owner of the National Basketball Association’s Cleveland Cavaliers, he spent $1.5 million on renovating the Flint, Michigan, school.
“I’ve always been pretty good about giving back, and when you meet these kids, you just get more motivated,” Hollman said. “If Beecher High School had been a public building, it would have been condemned, but because it was a school, it stayed open.”
Up until the 1960s, Flint, Michigan, had been one of the wealthiest cities in America, but the end of the industrial era and the automotive boom ended in urban decay, urban flight, and water contamination. “Flint has one of the highest crime rates because they’ve got no police funding,” Hollman said. “Property valuations have come down so much.”
“There is supposedly this racial divide in America, and Beecher High School is 100 percent African American,” Hollman said. “I wanted to prove to those kids that there is no divide. It’s the media making that up. We still love everybody. We saw on the video that the school was in bad shape. There was no heating, and the showers didn’t work. What mattered was that they were students at a school in need.”
The Locker Room Contest is part of Hollman’s Higher Education and Learning Program (HELP), which is a division of the Hollman Family Foundation.
Although COVID-19 made it a challenge to travel to the school and oversee progress, Hollman said he’s proud that the commitment was maintained. “The cost of wood increased, and the price of gasoline has almost doubled,” he said. “All that stuff impacts our business, and it also impacts our giving. If it costs 20 percent more to build in raw materials and it costs 30 percent to 40 percent more to ship the product, it gives us less that we can do.”
Hollman sits on the executive boards of a domestic violence charity as well as Big Brothers Big Sisters, and his wife, Stephanie Hollman, is the star of the Bravo TV reality episodic “The Real Housewives of Dallas.”
“My wife and I decided we had to help,” Hollman said. “We just want the students to have a little bit better life and to keep those kids off the street.” Because of the renovations, Hollman said the school has become a favorite place for Beecher students, who are staying at school until 10 o’clock at night. “If just one doesn’t die from a gunshot wound because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, then it’s a win.”
Juliette Fairley is a graduate of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Born in Chateauroux, France, and raised outside of Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, Juliette is a well-adjusted military brat who now lives in Manhattan. She has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, TheStreet, Time magazine, the Chicago City Wire, the Austin-American Statesman, and many other publications across the country.
This article was published in American Essence magazine.