Three years ago, my eight year old son Zachary had horrible handwriting, riddled with misspelled words and incorrect punctuation. With school out, and him wanting nothing to do with schoolwork, and idea occurred to me to have him write to all 30 NHL teams requesting a free “Fanpack”. I gave my son a template, and told him he could have only one misspelled word or correction in any given letter. This was work to him. Frankly, he hated it.
I had him write one letter a day, and I addressed the envelopes. He wrote the Capitals first, they are the local Stanley Cup Champs. Then he went to his second favorite team, the Minnesota Wild. And by the end of the second week he was hating it.
Sometime during the third week, he received a box from the Capitals. A water bottle, some cards, and a bobblehead that was the previous year’s promotion item. He LOVED it. Then more envelopes and boxes started coming.
Most teams sent playing schedules, stickers, pencils, some sent packs of cards, signed 8×10’s, and autographed pucks. My son now was really into it. When he went through all 31 teams, he had about 50 NHL cards. Me; not wanting him to stop writing as his spelling was getting better, his knowledge of players from around the league was getting better, and his enjoyment of the game was at an all time peak; told him to write to the players of the cards he had and request an autograph. This term is known as “Through The Mail” or TTM in Internet slang, and there are TONS of people across all sports doing it.
I gave him an all new template, new words to spell, new styles to write, and it was back to hard work for him. The enjoyment was gone. Until a few weeks later (again) his first card came back signed. Then another card came back signed. Sometimes weeks would go by with no cards coming back, but by now he was in a frenzy. He wanted more hockey cards, he wanted more paper, pens, and envelopes to request autographs.
Now three years later Zachary has roughly 300 current and former players autographs in a neat binder. When we are watching TV, he knows an obscure third linesman from Ottawa when he sees their highlights. All this time, he has gotten small rewards, whether Fanpacks or autographs through the mail. Meanwhile his writing has become immaculate for a now eleven-year old boy. His spelling is great, and he can comfortably write a one-page letter and address envelopes; which is what I wanted all along. Better handwriting and spelling.
The NHL by far seems like the best sport to get autographs from in the mail. Although he has gotten a few MLB players to write back, the majority of players he writes and receives from are current players. I now have him hooked and my great plan of getting his penmanship better has resulted in numerous books of stamps, paper, pens, and envelopes. And I am ok with that.
Are you wanting to get your kid into card collecting? There is a great program run by Sarah Brannon called “Kidority Kards” that will send your youngster sports cards free monthly (you can pick the league- NBA/MLB/NHL etc). They ask you pay only $4 in shipping. You can check out Kidority Kards at https://buckeyecitysportscards.com to sign up, or follow them @KidorityKards on Twitter.
This is a truly inexpensive way to get your kid collecting, and possibly collecting autographs through the mail as well.