Track & field alumnus creates unique way to give back during pandemic

It's not uncommon for Bert Sorin (1996-1999) to exceed expectations. The former walk-on for South Carolina track & field became an All-American and SEC Champion in throw events, and now as president of the family businesses called Sorinex, he temporarily changed his business model in order to donate money for COVID-19 relief.

"It's a really weird time, and we're just trying to help out people," Sorin said. "I'm from the Columbia/Lexington area and have lived her my entire life, and I want to try to have a good footprint on our community if we can.

"Our customers support and believe in us, and when you have 100 or more customers texting us and asking what we could get for them, we had to create a new supply chain or a new product that can help people. The idea was to help our community. So, it was a unique opportunity. It's a 'thank you' to our customers. They look out for us, and we look out for them.Sorinex creates innovative training equipment for many professional sports teams and celebrities and recently produced custom pieces of equipment for the weight room in the new Long Family Football Operations Center at South Carolina. Sorin decided to help those who had lost their jobs due to the pandemic, specifically those in the service industry, by donating nearly $100,000 raised from sales of a new piece of equipment in conjunction with the Coaches vs. COVID-19 initiative. In order to make it work, Sorin took a multi-pronged approach beginning with his customers who could no longer train as needed when many businesses were ordered to close.

"Being in the physical fitness and strength and conditioning world, a lot of our customers were at home with nothing to train on," Sorin said. "Whether you're a coach, pro athlete or when you're a student-athlete, your job is to be physically prepared. We started getting calls left and right asking if we had equipment ready to go. We usually build-to-order for large facilities. We didn't just have racks that people could buy for their home.  Our thinking was that we're in a war with this virus, so let's come up with a war-time solution."

That solution was the creation of a weight rack machine that could be made quickly and affordably so people could start training at home.

"We wanted to be able to get it out in a week or less so they could start training at home and get their spirits up and keep their immune system up," Sorin said. "We got it out there for cheap price to help people. We were already sponsoring Coaches vs. COVID-19, which was a lot of strength and conditioning coaches getting together to raise money to give to an affiliation that supports service industry folks who are out of work as well. We thought we could double-down and help those people out."

"I'm really proud how everyone came together to do it."

Sorin and his company promised to donate all the proceeds from sales of the rack during a two-week period in April toward Coaches vs. COVID-19, and when he let his customers know about it, they answered the call.

"The response was enormous," Sorin said. "We thought it was going to be popular, but it flooded our shop immediately. We were bombarded with orders, which was great, and we did our best to get them out as quickly as possible. We were able to donate more than $98,000 to Coaches vs. COVID and it eventually went to that non-profit that supports the service industry. The people who supported this are the ones who made this happen because that's where the cash came from."SummerStrong

Sorin called it a win-win.

"The people at home got their training system quickly and for little money, and they were able to be a part of giving back to the service industry," Sorin said. "It was a cool deal. We even saw people that had a home gym buying them for friends or gifting them to people.

"We weren't necessarily set up to do something like make masks or things like that to help out, so we look at what we were set up to do that is in our lane. We create innovative training solutions, and this solution wins on multiple fronts because it helps people stay mentally and emotionally up, physically strong and helps others maybe who can't work and are stuck at home. I'm really proud how everyone came together to do it."

It doesn't stop there. Sorinex also hosts an annual three-day summer strength event called SummerStrong, which normally attracts more than 700 participants from all over the world, and they plan on donating a lot of food that is normally prepared for the event to a local hospital and first responders.

"SummerStrong is kind of like taking a homecoming, a Ted Talk, a group therapy, a competition and a party and mixing them all together," Sorin said. "We normally do it May, but of course we had to postpone it this year to later in the summer. The people who build the racks cook all the food for the event. Since we aren't able to cook for everyone this May, we decided to cook that amount of food and deliver it to Lexington Hospital and to some of the first responders to help take care of them."

To find out more about Sorin's unique career as a Gamecock, click here.