NittanyStrong aims to help community, charities
UNIVERSITY PARK — Thomas Bellingham didn't go to Penn State. He doesn't even live in Pennsylvania.
However, when it comes to being a diehard Nittany Lion fan, Bellingham bleeds blue and white.
That's why the events of the past 10 months have been so hard for him to watch and digest.
After hearing negative things being said about Penn State, the football program and the State College community, he decided to act.
“I had to do something,” he said from his home in Louisville, Ky. “I wanted to take a stand.”
Bellingham created “NittanyStrong,” a website dedicated to supporting Penn State University. Visitors to the website will see a line of clothing emblazoned with the NittanyStrong logo.
What exactly is NittanyStrong? Think Nike's line of Lance Armstrong's LiveStrong products with a blue-and-white twist.
And Bellingham went through the proper legal channels.
“When I came up with the original idea, the first thing I did was check with my attorney,” he said. “We wanted to make sure we could do this. When we got the OK, we trademarked it and it took off from there. It's a great design, we just gave it our own message.”
The NittanyStrong line has been a hit thus far — and that's a very good thing. Proceeds from the NittanyStrong line will go to pair of charities. Locally, the Centre County Youth Service Bureau is the beneficiary.
“We were looking for a non-profit in Centre County and the Youth Service Bureau seemed like the perfect fit. They do so many good things for at-risk children. Programs like Big Brothers Big Sisters offer so much, so it's great to lend a hand,” Bellingham said.
Closer to Bellingham's home in Louisville, the NittanyStrong line will aid C.H.O.I.C.E. Inc. Founded in 1987, is a comprehensive, community-based, non-profit prevention program. The group provides services to young people who reside in Metro Louisville, Ky., and who are not chemically dependent.
“It's a local charity and they do great things. I thought that the more good we can do, the better,” Bellingham said.
Bellingham's love of Penn State began, as he says, in 1976 — the year he was born.
Growing up in Erie, he quickly became a fan of all things blue and white, most notably the Penn State football team. However, he never got to attend the university. Life's path took him to the University of Louisville and into the military. He put down roots in Louisville.
“I woke up one day with a wife, a couple of kids and a mortgage,” he said with a laugh.
His love of the Nittany Lions brought him back to Happy Valley for “Rise and Rally” last month, though.
“I packed up my 3-year-old, 500 shirts and drove 12 hours to State College,” he said. “I wanted to support the team, the program, the community. It's such a special place.”
Bellingham now runs Fresh Thoughts Marketing Inc., which promotes charity auctions and charity events.
“I'm just serving my God, my family, my community,” he said.
According to Bellingham, he's had a great deal of help from his friends, Jim Kinser and Lorne Brown. They've helped with marketing, orders, shipping and handling.
And what has the response to NittanyStrong been like?
“It's been great. The community response has been overwhelming,” he said.
There's a NittanyStrong website. Bellingham has also set up a Facebook and Twitter page.
According to Bellingham, NittanyStrong's mission is simple: Support Penn State.
“There's been a lot of negativity, people painting the community with such a broad brush,” he said. “NittanyStrong doesn't want to berate or belittle anybody. We're here to support the community and these people who are truly amazing.”