The following is an interview with Randy John, one of the PlayForBurk Foundation founders:
How do you know the Hansen family? How well did you know the Hansen’s son Burk?
I first met the Hansen family before they even moved to Bartlesville. Clint worked with my brother in Arizona and then again in Houston. Once he found out he was relocating to Bartlesville, he was told to reach out to us to find out more about Bartlesville. We met them when they came house hunting and have been best friends ever since. In fact, we moved neighborhoods after they found a house so that we could be neighbors.
Burk is like another son to us. We love him like one of our own. In fact, I would tease Clint that Burk spent more time at our house and in our driveway than he did up at their house. He and my son Austin spent hours every week shooting baskets, playing games, jumping on the trampoline, and just sitting around laughing with each other.
Burk passed away just over one year ago now. How did you first hear about what had happened to him?
I remember the day very clearly. We were at the soccer fields watching Avery play soccer. Clint called and I actually screened the call and was going to call him back after the game. He immediately called Shallan, and Shallan disappeared with her phone. She called me a minute later and told me to come to her. That’s the moment she told me. She could barely get the words out, “It’s Burk, he’s gone.” I will never forget that moment. Burk meant the world to our family. He, along with Avery and Austin, were the three amigos. They had so much fun together.
How did you originally become involved in the PlayForBurk Foundation? What have you focused most of your efforts on?
I spent hours and hours with the Hansens after the passing of Burk. There was so much love and support for the Hansens. It was unbelievable. We knew that we needed to take that support, momentum if you will, and do something with it. Having a strong faith in my Heavenly Father and the plan He has for us, I knew that something good was going to come from this. I tried to keep an open mind and stay strong, knowing that someday we would look back and know why Burk had to go when he did. Although I don’t know exactly why he left this earth when he did, I can look back over the short year and see all the great things that the foundation has done and the lives that have changed for the better.
I have focused most of my efforts helping to build up the foundation to be something that would change lives for the long term mainly through fundraising. I have had a lot of experience in this area over the years and it has become a strong point for me.
The Foundation seeks to partner with local youth to promote four things: service, faith, personal development, and recreational opportunities. How did these four pillars of the mission statement come to be?
As we sat around the table, we looked at the life of Burk and what he stood for. We grouped all his character traits into these four categories and built the mission statement around them.
You were instrumental in pulling together the Alex Boye concert last summer. Tell us about that experience.
Looking back, this is one of the coolest things I have been a part of. It actually started with my daughter, Addison, sharing a song that Alex had performed and had put on YouTube called “Have I Done Any Good.” I immediately went up to the Hansens and told them that this is the piece that we need to build around. We sat there and talked and had the crazy idea of trying to get Alex to come to Bartlesville. I emailed Alex that night and told him all about Burk and the foundation. His agent emailed me back almost immediately telling me that this is something that Alex was very interested in and wanted to make something work out. We worked together over the next few months to get everything lined up and all the technical issues ironed out. It was a ton of work but totally paid off once we got Alex here to Bartlesville. He delivered a very powerful concert that touched people in many different ways. I was impressed that Alex took the time to learn more about Burk and build his concert around the life that he had lived. I’m so glad we had Alex come out, but I’m not sure if I’ll do another concert any time soon. It was a lot of work! We had to make a pretty big investment to get him here and then hope that we could sell enough tickets to cover the cost. By the time all was said and done, we were able to sell enough sponsorships to cover our costs, and more importantly, create a lasting memory for so many.
What is it like to work with Clint Hansen on the Foundation?
Like I said earlier, Clint is who I consider a best friend. He is very insightful and easy to work with – always open to my crazy ideas. We have shared many laughs, tears, and tender mercies together. He has taught me a lot about organization, patience, and endurance. I think we complement each other very well. I’m pretty aggressive sometimes, while he’s there to keep me grounded.
You were actually the very first recipient of a PlayForBurk garden gnome. Which gnome did you receive, and did you feel honored by that experience?
This actually started off as a joke – probably payback from when we toilet-papered the Hansens. We have spotlights on our house where they placed the gnome. One night we came home, and it looked like a glowing gnome in our flower garden. I must say it was a great idea. Then Clint came up with an even greater idea – to go out, purchase more gnomes, and “gnome-inate” someone to go out and do something good. It has spread like wildfire. I have seen people from all over Bartlesville doing random acts of kindness. So it all started as a joke with the Elvis gnome, but is just another example of the insight Clint has as we go along.
A lot of people in our community have gotten involved in the Foundation and want to help support it. What do you think it is about the Hansens’ story or the Foundation itself that has drawn so many to its cause?
Like I said earlier, we knew that we had to do something with the momentum we had. So many people wanted to help out. It’s because of the life that Burk lived and the love for the Hansen’s that the foundation has flourished like it has. The Hansen’s are a family that exuberates kindness, love, and laughter. And they are super easy-going. These are attributes that others want to be around, that draw people in. Ever since the beginning, Clint has been open to whoever wanted to help out and has not denied anyone that wants to give, serve, or help out in any way. Clint thinks of the whole town of Bartlesville as his family, and Bartlesville feels it. When Burk passed away, anyone who wanted to come by and talk, or get a hug, or cry was welcomed into their house with open arms. That’s just the way they are.
How do you see the Foundation evolving in the future?
I see the foundation continuing to grow on those four basic principles – service, faith, personal development, and recreational opportunities. We will continue to host fundraisers to help us do what we need to do financially. More importantly, we plan to host different events to provide youth with leadership training, service opportunities, and recreational activities, and we hope to promote a faith platform that they can continue to build on. This year we are planning on a big youth leadership conference in July, another bowling activity in September, and a Turkey Run in November. One of the things I’m most excited about is how we partnered with the city and local Boy Scouts to build up Lee Lake across from Lowe’s. We helped bring in trees, benches, and grills to provide citizens with another place to get outside and enjoy the outdoors.
Tell us something about you. If you had to choose only one hobby to pursue the rest of your life, what would it be?
I absolutely love hanging out with my wife and kids. We love to go to the golf course and either hit on the range or go out onto the course and play. So, if I had to pick one hobby, it would be playing golf because I know we can all do that as a family.
You have a busy full-time job, a wife, and four kids, and already put a lot of time into your church volunteer work. Why is helping the Foundation important to you?
I have been blessed with a great job and to be a part of some really neat stuff here in Bartlesville. I have served on various community boards, put on several fundraising events, and spend lot of time volunteering at church. Other than volunteering at church, I would trade everything for the PlayForBurk Foundation. I’m 100% bought into what we stand for and where we’re going with the foundation. I know the youth are the future of this great land, and I have the opportunity to help shape them and build them into the leaders they soon will be. I have a strong passion for helping the youth succeed and supporting others who are also helping guide them, such as their teachers and parents. The PlayForBurk Foundation is not only important to me, but to my wife and children as well. They are there with me every step of the way, and I love serving alongside them.