Since he was a teenager N.C. State long snapper Joe Shimko has found ways to give back.
He participated in the ‘Challenger’ program in his hometown of Delmar, N.J., where he would play softball with individuals with special needs. Along with his dad, he also spent time helping rebuild a wheelchair ramp for a kid in his neighborhood.
His generosity is put in perspective by realizing how fortunate he is to be in the position he’s in. Playing college football, he has trainers available around the clock to help him recover. Shimko admitted he doesn’t understand the day-to-day struggles many people go through, so that’s what inspired him to give back when he can.
“This next generation is pretty awesome, they are getting it and giving back to their community,” Michelle Pfeiffer, president of GiGi’s playhouse said. “I think there is a bright future ahead if we have kids like Joe out there supporting GiGi’s and other charities in the community.”
Over the summer Shimko partnered with New Jersey state senator Vin Gopal and Monmouth County (New Jersey) Commissioner Tom Arnone.
Gopal started a fundraiser for the Food Pantry in Red Bank, N.J. Arnone started a fundraiser for The Mountain Ocean Foundation for Children.
Thanks to fliers, word of mouth, social media and a wide pool of contacts, the trio raised $150,000.
“I’m so proud of Joe for being a true servant-leader,” N.C. State head coach Dave Doeren said. “Not only did he raise an incredible amount of money for a worthy case, but he did it all under the radar. He wasn’t seeking publicity, he just wanted to help. That’s what giving is really about.”
Money that will change lives
Before the annual Victory Day at N.C. State on Aug. 5, Shimko approached Pfeiffer and introduced himself.
After a short conversation he told her he wanted to donate $25,000 to GiGi’s Playhouse, which offers educational, therapeutic and career building programs to individuals with Down syndrome. Pfeiffer said she literally started crying, realizing how far that money could go in helping individuals at GiGi’s.
GiGi’s Playhouse opened in 2016 and is funded completely from grants and donations. Nobody on the N.C. State staff knew what Shimko had planned.
With the $150,000 he helped raise with Gopel and Arnone, Shimko was told he could take some of it and donate to a charity of his choice.
After a talk with Doeren, GiGi’s was a no-brainer.
“They always have a couple of people out to practice giving out snacks and stuff,” Shimko said. “That made me realize I should give to them because they are always involved with us and that’s a great organization.”
In New Jersey, Shimko said plans are underway for the ‘Achieve Academy’ for kids with autism who age out of high school. The funds he donated to GiGi’s are a step toward a similar building in Wake County.
“Coach Doeren really put it in perspective,” Shimko said. “That I changed a lot of people’s lives with that amount of money. I wasn’t really thinking of it as that. I mean, $25,000, I had never seen that before, so I didn’t understand how much you can do with that. I was just trying to help people out.”