Last fall, as Becky Ayer walked her son Brian into Pleasantview Elementary on his first day of fifth grade, she asked him to set a goal for the year. Something academic related, or sports related, something he could put his mind to and accomplish over time. It was something they did in their family every year.
Brian didn’t know what to say. He looked down at his shirt, a Harley-Davidson T-shirt, and suggested that he could just wear Harley-Davidson shirts every day for the rest of the school year. His mom told him he was being ridiculous because he only owned two.
"I just went, I don’t care, whatever, just as long as it’s a goal and you stick to it," Becky says. "My husband rides a Harley, and I think it was just his way of connecting more to dad, and so he could get some really cool T-shirts out of it too."
It wasn't until two weeks into school that Brian’s teacher, Justin Schiffler, realized something was up. He knew Brian was a fan of Harley-Davidson. Come to think of it, Schiffler couldn’t remember seeing the kid wear anything else.
“His mom and I were chatting, and she was like 'Hey, I just wanna let you know that we’re doing laundry. He’s not just wearing the same shirt over and over,” Schiffler recalls. “I’m like, 'What are you talking about?'”
Brian was discreet about his goal. He’s a mischievous goofball with outlandish ideas and an intense love of life – “that Harley streak,” his teacher calls it. But he’s also very humble. Even when the St. Cloud Times came calling for a profile near the end of the school year, Brian was a bit reluctant to be the center of attention. He didn’t think he was doing anything cool enough to be in the newspaper.
“And of course all of his classmates were like, 'Are you kidding me? This is the coolest thing to happen all year,'” Schiffler says.
Brian’s family grew the boy’s collection of Harley shirts from two to 17 by the end of the year. He received them for Christmas, his birthday, his graduation – every gift-worthy occasion, Becky told the St. Cloud Times.
Another fifth-grade teacher, Brent Pakkala, helped the cause as well when he wrote emails to Harley-Davidson dealerships across the country, telling them about Brian and asking them to send their extra promo shirts. By the end of the year, packages were flooding into Pleasantview from tiny dealerships as far away as Kentucky and Alaska.
For Schiffler’s class, Brian’s goal became a lesson in commitment.
“It’s not like he’s climbing Mt. Everest, but I think anytime you have a goal that’s so long-term, it’s harder than probably what people think,” Schiffler says. “I told them, 'You know, your goals don’t always have to be academic goals. You’ve just gotta make sure it gets done and you do whatever it takes to get it done.' That was the bigger lesson for him and for the other kids to see, that there probably were days where it stinks and he wanted to get up and wear something else. But he stuck with it.”
The teacher adds that although Brian had to wear a steady rotation of black Harley-Davidson shirts every day, he did shake up his look before the end of the year when he showed up to class wearing his hair in a maroon mohawk. It was a fresh look for summer break, Brian told him.