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The Thin Margin – OWNKC

Sometimes, there is a very thin margin in life. 

Often we search for meaning, question our place, or look for guidance in the direction our lives might take. Sometimes the signs are small – almost undetectable. And, other times we literally get knocked off of our feet by a message where immediate heed must be taken. A widow-maker heart attack is just such a message, especially when the recipient is only 38 years old. 

Enter Matt McInnes. The happily married father of a young daughter was in great shape, had a successful career, and really wasn’t questioning his path in life. It seemed to be a perfectly good path until it wasn’t. On September 11, 2018, after having some indigestion and deciding to visit a walk-in clinic instead of meeting his wife (on her birthday) for lunch with their daughter at her school, Matt was given an EKG. Told to get himself to the Emergency Room without delay, he tried, but not without some difficulty. At the ER, he was in a full-blown heart attack. His margin was already thin, but then the hospital decided to move him by ambulance to a larger hospital, where a heart transplant was delayed so he could have urgent surgery. With six months of cardiac rehab, Matt was well on his way to making a decent, if not complete, recovery. 

The margin turned to the width of a hair when Priscilla, Matt’s wife, was diagnosed a year later with a cancer on her spine so rare, that the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, was the only place qualified to treat her. With the help of all of the friends and family who had been there for Matt’s ordeal, he managed to commute back and forth to be with Priscilla, while their six-year-old daughter tried to have a normal life. With two surgeries, six weeks of chemotherapy, and six weeks of a proton radiation therapy behind her, Priscilla came home with a positive outlook. 

Then COVID-19 hit. 

At this point, it doesn’t appear we are headed straight towards creating t-shirts and hats with logos on them. But, that’s exactly where we are going. Priscilla and Matt now at home, both being entirely too susceptible to the virus to be out in the pandemic, had time to think about what was next for them. Before excelling in insurance and financial services products, Matt was a graphic designer with degrees from Pittburg State University. With too much time on his hands now, he went back to his roots of playing with designs and logos. 

These two incredibly fortunate people didn’t want to feel sorry for themselves or have any kind of pity party. They wanted to give back. And, with a genius idea, they are doing just that, in spades. OWNKC (dynamic community apparel) was born of their desire to give back to the people who had saved Matt’s life – the people of St. Luke’s Health System. 

Here is how it works: Matt comes up with a logo, works with the people at the non-profit organization to make it their own, puts the logo on shirts and hats, and sends the printed gear to the non profit so that it can sell the gear and raise funds. OWNKC will front the costs of production. When the organization has raised enough money, it can pay Matt back for hard costs and shipping. The creation of OWNKC is not for making a profit, ever. The entire purpose of the company is to help non profits and the people they serve. With a newly-minted partnership with the American Heart Association, their “Save the beats” art work paired with some headphones is a winner. Other partners include Newhouse, Children’s Mercy Sports Medicine, cancer research, and, of course, St. Luke’s cardiac rehab, among others. The marketing of the products is done through both OWNKC and the non profit for maximum results. 

When Matt says, “We are inspired to give back to our community,” he means it. When Priscilla and Matt both say, “We want our daughter to have a positive experience,” they aren’t kidding. Finley, who is now eight years old, is an integral part of the family business. She is a champion folder, tagger, and packer! “She saw things go really badly, but we are still blessed, and now we look forward and lead by example,” explained Matt. When orders for logos and shirts take a little longer to process, Matt reminds us that it’s only the three of them working on this at home. Maybe after the pandemic, the margin of just six hands working on the project won’t be quite so thin. 

Also featured in the February 6, 2021 issue of The Independent
By Anne Potter Russ


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