What does it take to be a badass? A penchant for skydiving? Maybe a little more than that. A take-no-prisoners approach toward life? A little too aggressive. A positive and inspiring attitude that circumvents any obstacle and turns it into opportunity? Most definitely.
The Badass Project (BAP) is changing the way people view the word “extraordinary.” Going beyond the mere subtext of superstar originality, it focuses on those who have overcome miraculous odds of living and thriving against disorders, diseases and physical infringements that many of us healthy people take for granted daily.
Take Sean Stephenson, for example. He’s a 31-year-old who suffers from a rare body disease called osteogenesis imperfecta, a genetic bone disorder. In a wheelchair and having stopped growing beyond three-feet tall, Stephenson’s prognosis as a child was not to live past the age of one day. Yet, he beat those odds, 10,000 times over again, in fact—thanks to a supportive family, proper diet, exercise and a positive outlook on life. Today, Stephenson is a speaker, author and a coach—and a nominee for The Badass Project’s award and conference set to launch in 2012.
A new organization, under a year old, BAP was founded by blogger and entreprenuer Johnny B. Truant (supposedly the guy behind the shoe-throwing incident at President George Bush in 2008). Truant began BAP to honor “someone who, despite being dealt a significant physical disadvantage, lives an extraordinary and inspiring life,” as noted in his definition of a badass. His vision originally took flight in the ‘80s after seeing Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen continue rocking the snares despite being hindered from the use of one arm—the other which he lost in a car crash.
Local writer (who used to work for encore), musician, entrepreneur and now bar owner Adrian Varnam answered an ad to volunteer for Truant’s project at the beginning of 2011 after taking an interest in BAP’s foundation. “Johnny sent out an email to his list of readers asking for . . . a writer to handle the copy for the website,” Varnam notes. “Within a few months, I went from an interested follower to the inner circle of the project, writing almost all of the info for the website to this day, being involved in the planning and leadership team and serving on the board of directors.”
Though the website (http://thebadassproject.com) has an impressive amount of followers despite its infancy, the 501(c)(3) hopes to raise enough money to hold conferences and awards, paying out a “Badass of the Year” annually. Having raised $5,275 through donations and merchandising only, they plan on launching their first event in January 2012, awarding cash prizes and a trophy to one person from a slew of nominees. From Jason Becker—a virtuoso guitarist, who suffers from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s Disease—to motorcross racer Todd Thompson—who had to have his leg amputated after a crash on the racetrack at age 19, yet continued racing even after—the amount of stories and interviews that Truant has accumulated and Varnam has written are unprecedented in spirited inspiration.
“What makes this project so special is that it highlights the accomplishments of some amazing people in a way that doesn’t patronize, exploit or belittle,” Varnam says. “It’s called The Badass Project, because, well, ‘badass’ is the best word to describe them.”
Varnam says they will consider all featured badasses from their website as nominees. “Conference attendees will have an opportunity to elect one in particular they feel resonates the most,” he continues. “One nominee will be highlighted based on audience participation, and that person will receive a cash prize to help them continue being badass and inspiring others.”
To help garner momentum for the nonprofit, Varnam will utilize his newest business venture, Five Star Tavern, as a hosting spot for a fund-raiser this week. Located at 106 N. 2nd Street, in the old Tavern on 2nd Street location, Varnam and Badass Project Manager Jessica Commins will offer a night of competitive skee-ball to raise funds. As the case may be, Five Star Tavern also will be the new home for Wilmington’s own Brewskee-Ball league, founded by Varnam in 2007. Having made its home at Blue Post since its inception, Varnam looks forward to helping it expand into a new frontier.
“When the Brewskee-Ball league in New York City moved from a bar in the East Village, and opened its own bar in Brooklyn to build the league, it became a turning point in its growth and future,” he says. “Despite wonderful support from the staff at Blue Post over the past four years, moving into our own space opens the doors for growth that we’ve been unable to do up until now. We will be able to help create an identity that may evolve for both the league and the bar [for years to come.]”
The bar will also be the new home to Wilmington Unplugged, a singer/songwriter showcase of musicians heralded by Billy Mellon. The concerts will continue taking place the first Wednesday of every month. Plus, Five Star will feature live music every weekend, adding yet another hotspot venue to Wilmington’s ever-evolving list.
With his feet already grounded in the entertainment and nightlife industry, Varnam will draw from his experience as a server, bartender and working musician to help shape Five Star’s community camaraderie. “I’ve been involved in the bar and restaurant industry off and on since I was 20-years old,” he says. “A move into ownership is a natural progression—it only took finding the right space and business partners.”
He and Eric and Molly White will have a grand opening at Five Star on October 4th with the first Badass Project off-line fundraiser. “People can learn how they can get inspired by some true badasses,” Varnam promises.
Brewskee-Ball signups for Skeeson XII will also take place during the night as well, and the first week of the season will get underway Tuesday, October 11th. To sign up a team for the new skeeson—consisting of three rollers, plus one alternate—send names, e-mail addresses and a witty team title to firstname.lastname@example.org For more information on the Badass Project, visit http://thebadassproject.com, and check out Five Star Tavern on Facebook and at http://fivestartavern.net.