By David Krueger Herald Writer
Jared Stohl was sitting in traffic in Marysville when an idea struck him.
As he waited at the intersection of State and 88th streets watching a train pass by, the former Marysville Pilchuck High School basketball standout saw something that set off a spark in his head.
“I was stopped at a light off 88th street here and I was always amazed at the art I saw on trains,” Stohl said. “I was like, ‘Wow. What if I could find the kid that drew that art and put it on a shirt?’”
And so a company was born.
Stohl, a 2007 graduate of Marysville Pilchuck, is now the founder of Homeless-Art (or H-art) a company that takes artwork designed by homeless youngsters and puts it on shirts, with part of the proceeds benefiting area homeless shelters and youth centers.
“I go to homeless shelters and schools that have at-risk kids and I basically run contests for them,” Stohl said. “I have them draw art for us and if theirs is picked, they get the design on a shirt and a $50 gift certificate to anywhere they want.”
Stohl has worked with the Marysville School District’s Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP), the Everett Gospel Mission, Cocoon House in Everett and YouthCare in Seattle. He said he hopes his company can continue to grow and help even more people.
“I’m hoping to establish a system that allows the homeless to help the homeless,” Stohl said. “Right now I’m starting off pretty much in Marysville and Seattle, and I really think this could expand to something bigger than that. This could be a real clothing brand. People will see that these shirts help the homeless when they get them. When people see our shirts, they know they’re helping give back.”
Stohl found an investor in friend and fellow basketball player Anthony Wiederkehr. Wiederkehr, a 2006 graduate of Lakewood High School who played basketball for the Cougars and later at Western Washington University, said if anybody can make H-art a success, it’s Stohl.
“I’ve known Jared for a while and I know that he’s a really hard worker in everything that he’s done since high school,” said Wiederkehr, the finance manager at Aero Mac Inc., a small aerospace engineering company in Everett. “He’s the kind of guy who makes anything work. He sets goals for himself and he reaches those goals. Basketball is a great example.”
After starring in basketball at Marysville Pilchuck for four years, Stohl went on to play four years at the University of Portland, where he ranked as one of the nation’s top 3-point shooters. Upon graduation, he went to Germany where he played for the Crailsheim Merlins in the Pro A league.
As a sixth man for the Merlins, Stohl averaged about nine points and 14 minutes per game.
“It was definitely out of my comfort zone,” Stohl said of playing in Germany. “Whole new culture. It was a really cool experience playing basketball over there.”
Stohl wanted to move on to “a bigger league with more opportunities” but ended up getting hurt last summer. Right before it was time to sign a contract, he pinched a nerve in his back.
So he returned home and decided to start a new venture in life.
“My basketball career ended and I came back home and one of my cousins was couch surfing and one of my friends was living off food stamps,” Stohl said. “I had this idea, maybe four years ago, of putting homeless people’s art on shirts and raising money for homeless people. My basketball career’s over. This is my new calling and new dream that I have.”
One way Stohl hopes to get the word out about H-art is a clinic at his alma mater. To help raise money, the former high school, college and professional basketball player is hosting a clinic at Marysville Pilchuck High School from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
To get in, participants need to buy an H-art shirt at the door, at a cost of $20, and wear it into the gym.
“I figured why not connect both of my talents, basketball and my new shirt company, to get the word out?” Stohl said.
Count Marysville Pilchuck basketball coach Barry Gould, who will be helping at the clinic, as another person who thinks Stohl’s work ethic will make him a successful businessman.
“I think he is the best of the best,” Gould said. “Just as far as his work ethic and character and integrity. It’s pretty fitting that after college he would do something that’s centered around others. I think it’s cool that he’s coming back and giving back to his community with the basketball clinic.”
Stohl hasn’t ruled out a return to the courts. But if he does, he hopes it will be as a player/businessman.
“I’m still debating if I want to go back some day or not,” Stohl said. “I’m going to see how well this t-shirt company does. Hopefully, I could manage it while still playing overseas. I want to play again, but I don’t know if it’s going to happen soon.”
If he has played his last game, Stohl’s basketball career still may not be over. At least not if Gould has anything to say about it.
“I practically beg him to come and coach with me,” Gould said last Friday. “I’m at MP right now and he’s in the gym training my 13-year-old son. He’s a really good fundamentals-and-skills coach. It would be awesome if he would join our staff. … We’ll see if we can get it to come full circle and get him to come back and be a coach.”