Four days after Chad Ward started selling Grateful Nation Montana beanies inside the five Bob Ward and Sons stores around the state, he had to order more.
Customers quickly snatched up the Spyder brand beanies, emblazoned with the logo of the organization that provides college scholarships for children of Montana soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“We had customers buying one or more beanies for themselves and family, but we also had businesses such as Payne Financial of Missoula buying them as Christmas presents for employees,” Ward said in an email.
An original order of around 100 hats were offered on Veterans Day and went so fast that Ward and Spyder products CEO Tom McGann had to scramble to get more ordered in time for Black Friday.
The beanie project is a joint effort of Ward, McGann and Grateful Nation, which is run by David Bell. It’s a new way of raising money for the organization and Bell has been amazed by the response.
“I expected them to sell, but I expected it to take a few months, not four days. I didn’t realize there would be such a rush on them,” Bell said.
Grateful Nation gets nearly half of the proceeds from each $20 beanie and donates it to college-bound children of fallen Montana soldiers.
As of Thursday, 42 men from Montana have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, leaving behind a total of 32 children. All proceeds from the beanies will stay in Montana, Bell said.
Bell, Ward and McGann hatched the idea to sell the Grateful Nation Spyder beanies during an elk hunting trip.
In the past, Grateful Nation has raised money primarily through private donations and a 5K run in Bigfork on the Fourth of July.
The success of the beanie project will most likely lead to more Grateful Nation gear offerings, McGann said.
“My goal would be to get other companies involved with this so we could expand the offering, kind of a year-round access (to gear),” McGann said. “It’s a good way to help people who’ve helped us.”
Bell is excited to get more Grateful Nation gear out around the state.
“From Grateful Nation’s perspective, having all these people wearing these Spyder hats is as good as the donation. It reminds everyone of the sacrifice our soldiers make for us. I think it keeps our military community fresh in everyone’s mind, which to me is just as important as the donation,” Bell said.
Ward said there won’t be another shortage of beanies at the stores. The hats have been added to the Bob Ward’s website after people outside the state started calling and requesting hats.
“We have plenty of inventory now for those still wanting to buy a great winter beanie that can keep them warm during the cold months while giving back to the families of fallen Montana soldiers,” he said.