Before Malcolm Mitchell became a wide receiver for the New England Patriots, he was receptive to an uncommon friendship with a Wells Fargo team member.
Over the years, the friendship between Mitchell and Wells Fargo Capital Finance Credit Manager David Sapp included major life developments for both men — one gained a Super Bowl ring, a book deal, and a route to carry out one of his life missions; the other, an award-winning volunteer experience that is shaping thousands of lives, including his own.
A friendship kicks off
Sapp and his wife, Anne, have devoted a lot of time to their volunteer efforts. Six years ago, the Sapps went out to dinner with a University of Georgia college student whom they’d met in a leadership development program. That student brought along Mitchell, who was playing Division I football at the university at the time.
“There wasn’t much we had in common as a 53-year-old man with his wife and a 20-year-old star college football player,” Sapp said, “but at the end of the meal he (Mitchell) asked for our phone number, and I gave it to him. I didn’t think anything of it.”
Mitchell liked Sapp immediately.
What started with a few text messages and friendly visits became an ongoing friendship over the years. Sapp noted early on that Mitchell was interested in developing his intellectual game, so he passed along a book, “The Millionaire Next Door,” which examines some of the key habits of millionaires — including how they live, budget, and plan for their futures.
“Reading opens your mind to explore and gives you the confidence to go into new situations.”
— Malcolm Mitchell
Although Mitchell finds the book “phenomenal” and has now read it twice, Mitchell said the most important thing about this pass was that it proved Sapp and his wife shared his passion for gaining knowledge through reading.
“The one thing we do have in common is the ability to walk into an uncommon — even uncomfortable — situation and be able to just listen to people,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell, who worked hard to catch up on his reading skills in college, is now a reading super-fan. “Reading opens your mind to explore and gives you the confidence to go into new situations,” Mitchell said.
A desire to Share the Magic
Mitchell is aware of the hard-hitting statistics that link low literacy levels in youth to high dropout rates and other issues in life, and he became determined to share the message that reading is key to one’s long game.
“He’s a very creative young man, obviously,” Sapp said, “and he really wanted to send the message to kids that they need to read. So he popped up one day and said, ‘I wrote a book. This book is how I am going to do it.’”
Share the Magic has helped distribute more than 32,000 books to young readers through reading rallies, matching grants, and more.
Sapp volunteered his time to help Mitchell publish his book, “The Magician’s Hat,” and his involvement with Mitchell’s vision grew from there. Together, they started a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, the Share the Magic Foundation, in 2015 and built an enterprise around the book — all while Mitchell graduated college and became an NFL player for the New England Patriots (winning a Super Bowl ring in 2017). Share the Magic has worked with community partners to distribute more than 32,000 books to young readers through initiatives such as reading rallies, matching grants, and more.
Sapp, as treasurer for the organization, has joined Malcolm in personally visiting more than 45 elementary schools in underserved communities across the nation. During the organization’s Reading Bowl program in 2018, more than 5,000 students in 180 schools joined together to read. Along the way, Sapp has attended high-profile events related to the cause and has even met personal heroes like former U.S. Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell.
Because of his volunteer efforts, Wells Fargo awarded Sapp a Volunteer Service Award, including $5,000 to donate to Share the Magic. He was also recognized as Wells Fargo’s Volunteer of the Year in Atlanta this year.
Sapp and Mitchell remain tight-knit, agreeing that Share the Magic is a team effort for the betterment of all involved.
“Volunteering isn’t one sided,” Sapp said. “When you get to the end of the process, you realize that you’ve learned a lot. That’s why I tell people to just open themselves up to the experience.”