Mekhi Lewis spent a portion of his summer grappling with an important decision.
Last year, the NCAA relaxed rules concerning a student-athlete’s ability to profit off name, image, and likeness. Now, student-athletes can make money from sponsorships and endorsements, and earlier this year, Lewis, a member of the Virginia Tech wrestling team, signed a contract with an apparel company that provided him with income.
Lewis wanted to use some of his proceeds to make an impact beyond the mat. But he wrestled with how to go about it.
“I always wanted to donate to a charity,” Lewis said. “I just never knew what route I was going to go — if I was going to do it here, Blacksburg or Christiansburg, or back home [in New Jersey]. But I always wanted to donate. I realized when I had the opportunity to do it, I wanted to put it in motion. I was looking at centers back home and saw the center from it being in my hometown, and it was perfect.”
Earlier this summer, Lewis, a 2019 national champion and 2022 runner-up, announced on his Instagram account that he had made an $8,000 contribution to the Center for Great Expectations in Somerset County, New Jersey. Matt Tormenti, a former Virginia Tech wrestler who runs Princeton Brain, Spine, and Sports Medicine, matched Lewis’ gift, and Mark Whitcomb, the CEO of Engineered Component Solutions, added $5,000 for a total of $21,000.

The Center for Great Expectations, supports people, primarily women and expectant mothers, but also adults and children, who need long-term treatment for substance abuse or mental health disorders. In late June, Lewis, his parents, Virginia Tech Wrestling Coach Tony Robie, and Ethan Aguigui, the coordinator for creative communications in the wrestling program, visited the center. They toured the facilities, met with patients, and discussed the inner workings of the organization with staff members.

“It means a lot because I’ve always wanted to give back to people and give back to my community,” Lewis said. “To have the opportunity to be able to make the next person’s life better in any sort of way, whether it’s through the money I’ve donated or visiting there, just trying to help, I feel like that’s the main goal. That’s just my main goal in general — helping people.”
Lewis signed his apparel deal with FTWR. Its clients are professional fighters and boxers.
Lewis, who is the company’s only wrestler, hopes to donate more to the center in the future, but at the least, continue a relationship.
“There are just a lot of things that I thought were good about that shelter,” Lewis said. “Some shelters don’t really do the best for the people that are in there. They just do the bare minimum, but I feel like the Center for Great Expectations went above and beyond for all their clients. It just made me happy to see people like that trying to help these women who are in need for assistance or who want to get better for their children.”

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