STERLING HEIGHTS, Mich. – Steve Strickland is working to leave behind a legacy before cystic fibrosis takes his life.
He’s just 28 years old.
“We make and give away giant goalie masks, and we can do football and baseball as well. It’s timeless. And we’re creating something that people won’t forget,” said Strickland.
Years ago he noticed how intricate and beautiful some NHL goalie masks were.
“When you’re watching a game and you see on TV they pan to the goalie mask for a quick second, you go ‘Oh wow, that’s beautiful,’ but you don’t get to really appreciate it,” he said.
His cousin is an artist and has done the air brushing for several goalies. But Strickland thought, why just a passing view on TV? They found a fiber glass company and went from there.
“Once that mold was made, Gerald, the artist, was able to let it rip,” said Strickland.
After a few freebies to his favorite teams, word-of-mouth advertising took off. Orders from teams, beer companies, celebrities, and more were pouring in. They now have a giant helmet in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Strickland’s favorite is one of the first ones he did for the Detroit Red Wings, not because of the helmet but because of the memories.
“There’s a shelf inside for the kids to climb into, and they love it. They would just, ‘Wow,’ and it warms you up in a way -- there’s not the right word for it. They’re never gonna forget that. It’s amazing to me,” he said.
It’s that feeling that he hope lasts forever. He wants his business to be in the business of making memories because soon this 28-year-old will be one, too.
“It’s something that just eats away at you, and there’s not really a way to reverse the damage,” he said.
He has cystic fibrosis and it has damaged his lungs so bad that at 28 he needs a lung transplant. But it’s terminal. A lung transplant could buy him some time but there’s no way to know how much.
“You get this transplant and you’re rolling the dice,” he said. “But by not getting the transplant you’re saying, ‘I’ll see ya,’ but by getting a transplant you’re giving yourself a shot to maybe live longer.”
For now, medication is keeping him on his feet and focused on the business of giant helmets. He knows he’s dying, but as strange as it sounds he wants these giant helmets to be his lasting legacy.
“These helmets are my way of staying alive. When I’m gone, I know the helmets will not be gone, They’ll be there. If I can take the time I’ve got left and use that to create something that’s timeless, I wanna do that,” he said.
How to get involved, or how to get one
One thing Strickland has noticed is they are pricey and big companies can afford them but high schools and places of the like can’t. So they have a new program, part of the art system -- go on the website and buy a mini hockey stick and then they can turn it into a fund-raiser so a school can get one of the helmets.
For more information, visit the website here: www.gianthelmet.com