If there’s one moment Matt Gresia will always remember, it’s when he saw Mac Miller wearing his sock designs on stage.
The rapper, who died last September, lifted his leg on a speaker during a concert in New York City a few years ago, revealing his socks were the ones Gresia gifted him during a meet and greet just before the concert.
“Me and my friend just looked at each other like, ‘Woah,’” Gresia said.
At the time, Gresia had just launched Canswer Sock Co., a company devoted to creating various sock designs, shirts and hats with the intent to donate 10 percent of its profits to cancer research. His company is well underway, which is notable, because Gresia isn’t set to graduate from Manhattan College until May.
Seeing Miller wear his socks was a pivotal point for Gresia. He immediately took to social media to push for Canswer Sock’s growth, contacting up to 200 people a day to put his business out there.
“Not a lot of people would get back to me,” Gresia said. “But there were a few that did that have really grown to help me.”
Gresia was always interested in creating a clothing company and started Canswer Sock after finding inspiration in brands like Supreme, a skateboarding shop that also creates clothes that “created a community around them that’s more than clothing,” he said.
The community Gresia wants, however, is one that will help him raise money for cancer research, a cause close to his heart because of how many people he’s lost as a result of it. That includes the grandfather he never got to know, because he died of cancer before Gresia was born.
As Gresia began to grow Canswer Sock’s Instagram page — where he now has more than 19,000 followers — he crossed paths with Miller again when Clockwork DJ, the rapper’s music man, showed interest in discussing his designs.
The two eventually decided to sell Gresia’s designs during one of Miller’s world tours. Clockwork DJ even launched two new designs with Gresia at the end of last year.
“For them it was normal,” Gresia said. “For me, I’m an 18-, 19-year-old kid, and these socks that I started making seven, eight months ago are now being sold on my favorite artist’s tour in 26 different countries.”
Although Gresia and Miller never had a chance to talk more, Gresia looks back on this career beginning as “a crazy experience” he’ll never forget.
Now Gresia is taking his company to new heights by teaming up with Alexandria Amadoro, a 9-year-old girl from Hamburg, Pennsylvania, who plans to hike the Appalachian Trail in March to raise $3.1 million for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. The two collaborated on a T-shirt design that will have 100 percent of its profits go directly to St. Jude’s.
Instagram once again played a major role in this collaboration after Gresia discovered Alexandria’s account for the campaign.
“Immediately I was like, ‘This is amazing,’” he said. “‘This is not something you come across very often. I need to help her out in any way I can.’”
Gresia connected with Alexandria’s father Eddie, who then brought Alexandria and the rest of her family to New York just before Thanksgiving to shoot a promotional video.
Alexandria first became involved with fundraising five years ago after asking about why a child in a letter from St. Jude’s had no hair.
“I went to my room and I got my piggy bank,” she said. “And I brought it out and I started crying, ‘Help them, help them.’ Ever since then, I’ve just had this urge to help them.”
Most of Alexandria’s life so far has been devoted to helping others, and when she came to her parents with the idea to do the hike for charity, Eddie knew they had to pull out all the stops to make this a reality.
So far, the campaign has raised more than $6,000 through GoAlexandriaGo.org.
The Appalachian Trail hike begins in just a couple months, and Eddie predicts it’ll take about six months for the two of them to traverse all 2,200 miles of it, stretching from Georgia north to Maine.
“If we have a rough day, I want her to be able to get through it,” Eddie said. “I want her to be able to take her time, enjoy the journey, and complete it. I don’t want her to feel pressured about it.”
As the two prepare for this hike, Alexandria wants to inspire people to do more to give back.
“I hope that people learn that they should help each other,” she said. “No matter what it is, you should get out there and help people because you would like it if someone helped you. So why don’t you help them?”
And as Gresia continues to help others through his campaign with Alexandria and Canswer Sock, he’s learning from her as well.
“No matter what your age, your race, your sexuality, whatever, you can do whatever you want,” he said. “She’s a 9-year-old girl that is hiking up the span of our country for cancer research. If she can do that, anybody can do anything.”