Meet the Philadelphia Hockey Player Who Started a Philanthropic Foundation with a Hashtag

Philanthropic foundations are established for a variety of reasons, but those reasons typically have nothing to do with Twitter hashtags. However, that’s exactly what inspired one Philadelphia hockey player to establish the #hartnelldown Foundation. Scott Hartnell, who has played for the Philadelphia Flyers for the better part of seven seasons, started his own foundation in 2012 to support hockey, children, and communities around the U.S. and Canada.

A couple years ago, Hartnell noticed a fan in the crowd holding up a sign that said “#Hartnell Down” and had the number 145 next to it. While on the road a few weeks later, he saw another sign that said “Hartnell Down 171.” Although he couldn’t figure out what the fans were counting, his trainer explained that it was the number of times he fell down during the games. Alas, a new Twitter sensation was born. To play into the hype, Hartnell had over 500 #Hartnell Down t-shirts made and gave the proceeds to charity. At the 2012 NHL All-Star Game, he donated $1,000 to charity for every #hartnelldown that occurred during the competition.

“I never thought I would have my own charity and do this kind of work,” Hartnell told a NHL contributor in an interview. “I've given back over the years in many different ways, but to have your own foundation is awesome. The Flyers fans all over the world have been so supportive. People have big hearts and love to support great things.”

Until recently, Hartnell has focused his foundation on selling merchandise to support charities that engage youth through physical activity. However, he recently worked with his sister to write a children’s book that parallels his falls on the ice with common falls in life. “I thought it would a good idea to create a children's book about when you get knocked down, you get right back up again. It happens in school, when you get a bad grade, you study harder next time.”

Scott Hartnell has yet to establish an official grantmaking program for his foundation, but philanthropic pursuits for youth causes are clearly on the forefront of this 31-year-old’s mind these days. We’ll be interested to see how he channels the wealth from his athletic career towards charitable organizations in future seasons and once his days on the ice are over.

While playing in Philadelphia for most of his career, he’s developed a strong affinity for the city. “It's a blue-collar city and I love playing here,” he said. But will that devotion translate into more charitable support and grantmaking for youth causes in Philadelphia in the future? Recent awards funded a playground in Cherry Hill, New Jersey and all-expense paid scholarships to attend the Minnesota Hockey Camps.

Oh and if you were wondering, the 2013-2014 Down-o-Meter is currently at 254 with $12,700 donated by Hartnell to date.