Longtime Friend of the Transplant Center Events Talks About his Experience Supporting our Events
Rishi Narayan is an owner at Underground Printing in Ann Arbor. Underground began as a small t-shirt printing service and has grown and expanded to over a dozen states around the country. Rishi began supporting Transplant Center events over 15 years ago and remains one of our strongest supporters. He especially likes to support Camp Michitanki.
We recently sat down with Rishi to discuss his involvement with the Transplant Center.
UMTC: You don't have a personal tie to transplantation, yet you have supported us for many years. Why has the Transplant Center become such a priority for you?
RISHI: Everyone at the Transplant Center has done a good job telling the story. When you have a good story, that will always be something that resonates with me. I’m the person that wants to read the back of the menu to learn the story of the restaurant before I read about the food. The thing I like about transplant is that it’s all-encompassing. It’s adult, pediatric, cardiovascular, skin, tissue, eye, there’s so many ways it can help. It reaches throughout the health system. It’s not that I’ve personally been affected by transplant, but that transplant affects almost everyone. My focus has never been about the day of the transplant or the surgery itself. My personal knowledge of the Transplant Center is about the people who have benefited and how their lives are now. It’s my focus because it’s what I’ve been exposed to.
UMTC: Your support of our fundraising events has ranged from sponsoring golf putting contests to participation at dinners and bowling and auctions. We are very grateful to you for providing custom printed and embroidered shirts and hats for many of our events.
RISHI: The cool thing about shirts is that they’re really personal. Especially when they’re tied to events related to causes. We want to go to events and to be a part of things. We want that relationship, because that’s what matters. We’re pretty proud of the things that we do for our customers and their events and we like to support them.
UMTC: What do you like best about our events?
RISHI: The first thing I remember from Transplant Center events is the camp video, which is so inspiring. You see kids just being kids and you realize that they could not do those things without camp. Camp is the extension, the gateway for me. It’s such a unique and cool experience for kids that they otherwise wouldn’t get to have. When you see a kid doing something like playing chess, which is kind of an adult activity, it captivates the imagination. I know the Transplant Center does much more. For example, without donor drives, you can’t ever get to camp, and supporting research is important, too.
UMTC: You have come back year after year, doing more for us all the time. What drives you to support us so generously?
RISHI: Why does anyone give their time, their energy and their money to try to help? The best validation I see is that it is working or has actually worked. The best follow up that I get from supporting causes is the stories of how the money is working. It’s more important to me to hear about people who have been impacted than to show something that was built with my money. Camp is a big one. You’re seeing kids doing kid stuff and it’s especially impactful because you feel or you know that they couldn’t normally do those things. If they didn’t have this program to be around other transplant kids, it would be very difficult. It would be really hard if they had to go to a camp that didn’t cater to similar issues. I just want to see that kids are having fun at camp. My oldest child is 3 and so today it makes even more of a difference to me. I’m lucky that my kids are healthy and I can only imagine what it’s like to be a parent whose child is sick. I’m thankful and I want to find ways to help those in need.
UMTC: You have worked to build a successful business. Do you see the skills and experiences from summer camp as an important step toward success for kids?
RISHI: For me, it’s in the here and now. It’s not that this experience is setting them up for life, for me. I know all of that is there but for me it’s just about the experience. Even just one more great week at camp is a miracle in itself. To go from needing a kidney or a heart to sliding down a zip line. Think about it, that’s awesome. I’m not an expert in all of the social and education aspects of camp. I can only tell you that that kid is having fun and maybe they might not have had that opportunity otherwise. Ultimately, for me, it’s that kids are enjoying doing what they’re doing now. I don’t know what it might mean for him 20 years for now, but he’s enjoying it now.
What they’re doing now is the biggest deal in the world for them. The other things come from it. What I’ve learned in my life is that you do the right thing and focus on that and the path unfolds in front of you. If you’re only focused on a destination, then finding the path can be much more difficult. Camp is definitely not a meaningless one-off type of event but it’s also not designed to make you become great at, for example, archery. It’s to develop social skills and find interests that you would not find on a daily basis. When you go and do it, of course you have the comfort of knowing that there are other awesome benefits which will impact you in the future. That sort of data is interesting to me but the reason I feel good about helping Camp Michitanki is because of the story. The data is just there to back it up.
Trying new things and doing your best at what’s in front of you is the most important for me. This is how I approach just about everything: today just go and do. Tomorrow is going to unfold the way it’s supposed to.