The Five Strong Foundation was created in 2015 by five guys who saw an opportunity to bring the thrill and comradery of athletics to the developmentally disabled community. In 2017, Five Strong shifted its focus toward developing and running skills camps. This allowed for the foundation to reach a broader audience through a variety of sports, while offering an experience that empowers its campers to reach new heights. Today, the athletes that attend Five Strong camps at Recreation Unlimited could be climbing, playing softball, shooting baskets or learning the skills needed on the volleyball court or the soccer field.

Brett Hatcher

Hometown: Bellefontaine, Ohio
College: The Ohio State University
Major: Marketing & Logistics
Family: 3 children

Why Five Strong? When the five of us first met, we were on a committee through Goodwill. That committee was involved specifically with the Special Olympics. We all had athletic backgrounds and we saw the need that existed. Many children and adults with development disabilities don’t have the same opportunities we have. They can’t just go outside the house and be active, so we wanted to give them the opportunity to interact, exercise and have fun playing sports they all love.

Does this impact you personally? I have a nephew who has Down’s Syndrome. He was really young when we started Five Strong. He is going to start coming to the Special Skills Sports Camps. I’m really excited to see how he is impacted by what we are doing.

Do you recall the moment when you said to yourself, “This is why we are doing this?” I still remember our first Skills Camp and seeing the smiles on their faces. I will never forget that. We’ve had some incredible opportunities, like having Urban Meyer come speak to the campers. But it’s always their smiles and them telling us that it’s their favorite day of the year. That’s why we do it.

Columbus Derby Days is your big fundraiser that continues to grow. How did that come about? We started off hosting a big volleyball tournament, but not everyone can play volleyball. Then we started thinking about something that everyone could be involved in. We looked around and nothing was really happening on the week of the Kentucky Derby. This is our sixth year and it just continues to grow. We go all out with the clothes people wear, the hats and we even serve mint julips. Ohio Stadium is also the perfect venue.

Where is Five Strong five years from now? We have been expanding throughout the state of Ohio, so we want to continue that, but we also have a great relationship with Recreation Unlimited who runs the camps. We want to get to the point where we can donate brick and mortar and help with new facilities.

Clayton Davis

Hometown: Rockford, Ohio
College: Bowling Green State University
Major: Marketing & Finance
Family: 1 child

Why Five Strong? Growing up, both of my parent’s careers revolved around working with individuals with disabilities. Subsequently, when my sister moved to Columbus, she followed that same path with Franklin County Board of Development Disabilities. When looking at different local organizations to give back, I was unable to find a younger charity that supported this very special community. When the five of us got together, we clearly identified a need not only for support but also a need to bring awareness. Given our backgrounds and love for athletics, it was easy to figure out what we needed to do.

Do you recall the moment when you said to yourself, “This is why we are doing this?” This was during one of our initial camps. Just sitting back and seeing how excited all the participants were to be there was a bit overwhelming. Something that I would have just chalked up to another day. It showed me how extremely important it was to them and the importance that we continue to grow this support. Trust me in saying, it only took the first smile to make me all in. It would do the same to you as well!

Columbus Derby Days is your big fundraiser that continues to grow. How did that come about? Initially we started putting together different athletic events, which started with an annual volleyball tournament. We received feedback that people really loved our overall cause and would like to contribute, but didn’t necessarily want to play in what we were hosting. When we noticed there was a gap in community events around the Kentucky Derby, we thought this could be a great fit. Fortunately, it continues to grow year after year and we have no intent on slowing that down!

Where is Five Strong five years from now? We had always wanted to find a suitable brick and mortar facility for hosting events on a year-round basis. But that can be a costly and complex process. That said, we were fortunate enough to find a great organization that had an already amazing campus facility. By partnering with Recreation Unlimited and utilizing their established facilities, this allowed both organizations to leverage our similar mission statements to enhance growth and support each other. By sharing resources and collaborating, we can provide a stronger and more comprehensive offering to our target audiences.

Zach Bertke

Hometown: Beavercreek, Ohio
Education: The Ohio State University &
Georgetown Law
Family: Married with 2 children

Why Five Strong? When my friends approached me with an idea to start a nonprofit centered on providing developmentally disabled individuals with access to lifestyle and wellness facilities and programs, I was honored to be a part of the team.

Does this impact you personally? This has become a passion of mine. By raising money to offer camps at no cost, I am proud to be a part of such a great organization that is helping individuals with developmental disabilities live more active and healthy lifestyles, as well as helping them build self-confidence and interpersonal skills.

Matthew Meyers

Hometown: Columbus, Ohio
College: Ohio State University
Family: Married with two children

How did you get involved in Five Strong? I’ve known Brett for about 15 years or so. Over the years he introduced me to some of the other guys on the board, first introducing me to the cause in 2018. Although not a founding member, I have always been active in volunteering for causes that focus on helping children. From an early age I have been involved with St. Jude Children’s research hospital, but I also volunteered many times with the Special Olympics. This was such an easy “yes” when asked to be a board member, it seemingly fit in completely with how I wanted to give back.

Do you have any special needs children or adults in your family? I don’t have any immediate family members with special needs. I first volunteered with Special Olympics in high school, and I couldn’t believe the impact it had. I saw so many individuals that didn’t let any disability hold them back, it was inspiring to say the least.

Tell me about a moment where you said to yourself, “This is exactly why we started this foundation?” The first camp I attended in 2019. We were playing baseball and seeing how happy all these athletes were really moved me. I called my wife on the way home and couldn’t stop talking about how great things turned out. The happiness you saw from a single person making a catch or hitting a ball off a tee is hard to describe. It clearly was the highlight of their week, and it was mine as well.

John Underman

Hometown: Westerville, Ohio
Education: University of Cincinnati
Family: 2 children

Why Five Strong? Being involved in these camps, it has become evident that they stand out as the highlight of the year for many campers. That’s why I am committed to doing everything within my power to ensure that our campers experience more of these moments of joy and good days.

What is your personal motivating factor in being involved in this type of philanthropy? My passion for Five Strong (and philanthropy in general) comes from the fact that the demographic age of the charitable community is aging out. Most millennials are willing to volunteer their time, but few are raising money to impact causes. My partners and I feel it is imperative to lead our generation in the efforts of leaving Columbus better than we found it.

What do you believe are the biggest challenges for Five Strong? We are working hard to raise more money by adding other charitable events, but we all have hectic schedules and are limited by all our commitments. We would like to hire a full-time executive director to help coordinate our efforts so we can make the most impact on the community.