Matt & Luke Bonner are on a mission to help kids get their art and athletic groove on. With art and athletic programs getting cut from school budgets, the brothers decided to take action and found a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization called the Rock On Foundation.
The foundation raises money to help pay for things like public basketball court renovation, electric guitar donations to school music programs, and helping at-risk youth have access to youth sports programs, in New Hampshire and beyond.
The appreciation for sport comes from a personal place for the founders. Matt Bonner, on the board of directors, played college basketball at the University of Florida and has been in the NBA for the past 12 years, most recently with the San Antonio Spurs. His brother Luke Bonner, executive director of the foundation, played college basketball at UMass Amherst and pro basketball in Europe and in the NBA D-League.
And they both share a passion for music, hosting benefit concerts like the Rock On Fest on Saturday, Aug 13th in Concord, NH. The Fest is a free community celebration that includes music, yoga in the park, HS hoops, family fun and fireworks. YORK Athletics Mfg. will be in the vendor village, as we are proud non-profit partners with the Rock On Foundation.
We had the opportunity to talk to Luke and learned some cool stuff about the foundation and their experiences...
Where does the name Rock On come from?
The name “Rock On” is actually a tribute to New Hampshire’s beloved but fallen Old Man of the Mountain. The Old Man of the Mountain remains our state’s icon, despite having crumbled in 2003.
What motivated you and your brother Matt to go big and start a non-profit for the arts and athletics?
We had been running more one-off DIY type of benefit concerts since 2007, and when I “retired” from playing overseas, we decided to formalize our efforts into an official nonprofit. Sports and arts are what we’re most passionate about, what we know best and an essential part of community, so that’s the direction we decided to go with the organization.
When you were younger, you and your brother Matt played basketball at a court in White Park, where the Rock On Fest is being held this year. In 2013, the Rock On Foundation contributed funds from a summer benefit concert to refurbish that court. What made that court so special?
If you’re from the area, the park is simply known as “White’s.” It’s actually named after Armenia White, a founder of American Express, who donated the land to the city a long, long time ago. The park is awesome, super vintage New England vibe. It plays host to the Sunset League, the “longest running after supper baseball league in the country.” And, the basketball court has tons of history. We grew up hearing stories from our parents’ generation talking about how that court used to be the hot spot in town. We kind of bring some of that back through the festival.
What would you say is the most fun aspect of your job?
To me there’s nothing more enjoyable than seeing something through from ridiculous idea to reality—whether it’s cutting a check to an organization that won a grant, seeing kids play on a court we renovated, or seeing people come together for an event, I love knowing that we’re working hard to have a positive impact in shaping our community.
You meet a lot of celebrities/artists/musicians/athletes as executive director of the foundation. Any moments that really stick out in your memory?
A more recent one that comes to mind is from this past February at our NBA All-Star Party. Girl Talk performed at the party and Jason Sudeikis showed up. I thought it would be a good idea to get a photo of him with my brother, and he obliged. But, when we turned around, my brother had run off somewhere. So, I suggested a photo with me instead. I handed my phone to Sudeikis’s girlfriend for a pic. Took the pic. And, shortly after, connected the dots that I had Olivia Wilde take the photo. If I could do that one over, probably would have had her in the photo too, haha.