The Big Hurt Fan Club, 1995-1997
and Frank Thomas Charitable Foundation
1995 Fan Club Newsletter
4 total editions
1996 Fan Club Newsletter
4 total editions
1997 Fan Club Newsletter
2 total editions
In November of 1994, Lisa Rybicki was hired as Fan Mail/Fan Club Coordinator, and the design phase of the Big Hurt Fan Club began. The Big Hurt Fan Club - an entity within the Frank Thomas Charitable Foundation of Big Hurt Enterprises - was an organization that sprung from the high volume of correspondence and autograph inquiries Frank Thomas received from his fans, through-the-mail autograph hounds, and other charitable organizations. While Frank was known to reply too many requests, it became physically impossible to meet the demands carried by his level of sports fame, and thus the Fan Club was born. As mounds of fan mail arrived during the extended offseason between 1994 and 1995, Frank's organization began replying with a generic, 1-page flyer that included a facsimile signature photo on one side and an invitation to the Big Hurt Fan Club on the other. Proceeds from the Fan Club went toward running his own Frank Thomas Charitable Foundation, as well as toward donations to other charitable organizations in the name of FTCF. When the Big Hurt Fan Club launched in the Spring of 1995, fans received a care package of Big Hurt memorabilia and the first of 4, roughly, quarterly newsletters. In the March newsletter, the first, it was announced that a Big Hurt merchandising catalog would be released that year; however, despite much fan excitement, the catalog was never distributed. With Rybicki at the helm, the Big Hurt Fan Club would last a total of 3 seasons, growing greatly in year 2, and dwindling in 1997, the final year. Throughout the Fan Club's run, opportunities to purchase various fundraising swag and member contests and giveaways were plentiful. The newsletters also served to chronicle Frank's achievements, both on the field and off. The first 2 volumes of newsletters - eight total editions - are available to be read at the right of the screen; click on an image to expand the newsletters.
On March 8th, 1993, Frank formed the Frank Thomas Charitable Foundation in order to coordinate fundraising efforts with the various non-profit entities with whom he affiliated himself. In order to expand the scope of the Foundation, Barb Kozuh - the White Sox's Manager of Fundraising and Publications since 1990 - was hired to direct the program's development and operations. From 1994 to 1998, Kozuh oversaw various events, memorabilia sales, grant writing, and fundraising drives whose proceeds grew money for organizations like the Leukemia Society of America, the Boys and Girls Clubs, and a needs-based college scholarship.
While the majority of fundraising events and efforts were focused around Chicagoland, the Big Hurt Fan Club gave fans across the globe access to some charity memorabilia opportunities. The first piece of fundraising merchandise advertised and offered to Fan Club members was the Big Hurt tie, designed by Nicole Miller. Originally available on September 17th, 1995, through a fundraising event at the Nicole Miller store in Chicago, the remaining ties were made available through the Fan Club. These 100% silk ties include the likeness of Frank, the Big Hurt logo, and other baseball themed images. Initially, in 1995, ties were available for purchase for $60, or $75 for one of 1200 autographed pieces. Unsold ties were eventually discounted in the 1996 Club season.
Frank's Foundation coordinated multiple charitable events; from golf tournaments to meet and greets, it operated in some capacity for years beyond the Fan Club. In time, charity memorabilia became a workhorse for the Foundation's money raising efforts. Initially, chocolate bar and phonecard sales were advertised in the Big Hurt Fan Club newsletters, but later more collectable 4-card sets produced by the Donruss/Leaf Company became the highlight. By 1998, the scale of memorabilia-based fundraising efforts shrunk drastically, and the organization began a gradual downsizing process.