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Deflecting debilitating blows one Guardian Cap at a time

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A Guardian Cap in use courtesy of Guardian Sports

With football season in the rearview for most players, the effects of injuries–especially those blows to the head–can alter careers and live well after the final play.

A relatively new piece of equipment manufactured in Peachtree Corners helps alleviate much of the impact from those hits that a helmet alone can’t deflect.

Husband and wife team Lee and Erin Hanson started Guardian Sports in 2011 with one goal: innovating equipment to better serve athletes. But one must go back even further to understand the science behind their technology.

“[Our initial company] really had nothing to do with sports,” said Erin.

She and her husband started the Hanson Group, a material science company, about 30 years ago.

“The Hanson Group solves problems for other companies–material science problems,” she said.

“Lee is a chemical engineer from Georgia Tech. … [He created] things for the military and all kinds of applications for all kinds of Fortune 500 companies. If they need something done quickly, they come to the Hanson Group and we try to solve their material science problems,” she explained.

By chance, someone from the helmet industry came to them looking to make a more flexible helmet.

“We saw the data behind what it could do to flex the exterior of a helmet,” she said. “And even though that company didn’t make it, we decided that if we could retrofit any football helmet inexpensively, we could cut down on the impact that all players were feeling.”

Making football fun and safe for all

When the idea for Guardian Caps came together, the Hansons weren’t considering adding another division to the company.

The drive to make the helmet accessory grew from the passion to help the game.

“Quite honestly, Lee and I were pretty far along in our lives. We had raised five children, and he had been at the Hanson Group for at least 20 years by then,” said Erin.

The couple questioned whether they wanted to launch something new and revolutionary. There was nothing like it on the market.

“We felt like if we’re going to go direct to consumer, we’re going to branch off to a whole new company and just go for it and see if we can make a difference,” said Erin.

Through trial and error, Lee and his team analyzed data that showed what a softer helmet exterior could do to reduce impact, which would translate into reducing injury rates.

“And how can we do it in a way that’s affordable and could be available for mass adoption?” Lee said during an interview with the city of Peachtree Corners.

“How can I make it affordable to that mom who’s already buying all that equipment for her child to play youth football? How can we create a one-size-fits-all?” he recalled.

He said they worked with a cut-and-sew facility and seamstress and made up the first prototypes before testing them in a laboratory.

Their son and his teammates at Wesleyan became the first to practice with the new equipment.

In 2012, The University of South Carolina and Clemson were the first college adopters, and the company experienced solid grassroots growth after that.

Joining the Peachtree Corners business community

By 2014, the Hansons moved their company to Peachtree Corners to benefit from the pro-business, family-friendly community and strong Georgia Tech connections.

The Guardian Cap is now used by over 300,000 youth high school and college athletes nationwide and mandated by the NFL for all 32 teams.

The cap dramatically reduces the force of impact upon collision, as experienced by football and lacrosse players. This topic has come to national attention due to CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, and its relation to concussions.

According to company literature, in 2017, Guardian won the first NFL HeadHealth TECH challenge to “develop new and improved helmet and protective equipment.”

While the football helmet itself has undergone many changes since the early days of the small leather hats that only covered the tops of the head and the ears (no face mask and nothing to absorb blows from tackles and other hits), Guardian Caps are an accessory that builds upon modern technology.

Some college and professional players wear helmets made so that the interior conforms to their heads. Guardian Caps adds a layer of protection on the outside, absorbing shock before the impact even reaches the helmet.

“Now, obviously, safety is a concern amongst athletes. So, Guardian Cap has come up with this soft-shell layer that goes on top of the hard shell of the helmet,” said Lee.

In 2018, testing done by NFL and NFLPA-appointed engineers revealed that Guardian Caps made a statistically significant improvement over hard-shell helmets alone, company literature said.

By August 2020, the NFL allowed its teams to wear Guardian Caps during practice. The Jacksonville Jaguars were the first to do so. In July 2022, Guardian Caps were featured at NFL training camps for all 32 teams.

This year, the NFL mandated that Guardian Caps be used for the 2023 season in all pre-season, regular season, and post-season practices. Players in position groups with the most head contact will be required to wear Guardian Caps in addition to running backs and fullbacks, as well as linemen and linebackers.

No one-hit-wonder

Genius doesn’t take a timeout, and Guardian Sports isn’t resting on the Caps’ success alone.

“We’re constantly evolving, and although Guardian Caps is our flagship product, we’ve got others,” said Erin.

Their son Jake was a lacrosse goalie at Georgia Tech, dodging rock-hard projectiles flying at him at 93 miles an hour.

“So, we said, ‘You know, why don’t we make lacrosse balls out of rubber?’” Erin said.

Thus, Lee created a urethane ball. Called the “Pearl,” it is now the official ball of the NCAA lacrosse tournament.

The Hansons have also developed infill for artificial turf fields that isn’t made of used car tires.

Without the chemicals and carcinogens of rubber tires, the smoother pellets are puffed with air, cause fewer abrasions and lower the temperature of the field by as much as 30 degrees.

“As we see things, it’s really difficult not to want to solve things when you see our children being affected by it,” said Erin.

Investors initially wanted to sell Guardian Caps at $1,000 each, but the Hansons knew that families couldn’t afford that price tag for youth sports. At the end of the day, they are a dad and a mom who are looking out for the safety of kids.

“The NFL is really cool, and they’ve helped us with exposure, but, you know, we’ve got a real passion for helping those young developing players, for sure,” she said.

Guardian Sports
3044 Adriatic Ct NW
Peachtree Corners, GA 30071
guardiansports.com
770-667-6004

Arlinda Smith Broady is part of the Boomerang Generation of Blacks that moved back to the South after their ancestors moved North. With approximately three decades of journalism experience (she doesn't look it), she's worked in tiny, minority-based newsrooms to major metropolitans. At every endeavor she brings professionalism, passion, pluck, and the desire to spread the news to the people.

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Taste of Peachtree Corners: PCBA Showcases Local Restaurants

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Over the past 12 years, the PCBA has awarded 19 scholarships and donated more than $156,000+ back to the Peachtree Corners community.
Photos by Anna del Villar

The Taste of Peachtree Corners has been in the works for years, but the COVID-19 pandemic put many key events on hold for the Peachtree Corners Business Association (PCBA).

But luckily this year, the dedicated staff of volunteers successfully executed a memorable event and introduced a lot of local business owners to their neighboring restaurants and caterers.

As I walked up to the Community Chest Room at Peachtree Corners City Hall on June 27, there was a line outside the door. I later found out that over 100 people had registered to attend the event. I got checked in quickly and was faced with a “passport” of 10 Peachtree Corners restaurants serving everything from high-end bakery items to good old-fashioned barbecue, and modern twists on seafood and American cuisines.

Let’s talk about the food

The idea was to visit all 10 restaurants and collect stars while trying samples and small plates. My first stop was Firebirds Wood Fired Grill, and they had my favorite – homemade chips and queso. The queso was smoky and mildly spicy with a great depth of flavor. What a great start. Next up was Chopt. Creative Salad Co. I had never heard of this restaurant before, but they blew me away with a perfect amuse-bouche of cherry tomato, pesto, mozzarella, and olive oil. These guys understand simple and fresh Mediterranean flavors.

The folks from Marlow’s Tavern were also on-site serving shrimp and grits with jalapeno, spinach and tomato beurre blanc. This is definitely the style of elevated food I’ve come to expect from Marlow’s. And as a nice touch, they prepared a refreshing blueberry cocktail.

Another familiar face was set up on the other side of the room. J.R.’s Log House Restaurant served southern favorites like pulled pork sliders, baked beans and mac n’ cheese. I couldn’t pass this one up. The pulled pork was tender, tangy and saucy. Exactly what I want from a barbecue. Lazy Dog’s table really impressed me with its presentation. The tuna cup with rice, avocado and chili with chips on the side, was a real stunner.

Moe’s Southwest Grill was also on-site handing out tasty tequila lime chicken with rice, avocado, and black beans. This super hearty and comforting entrée was followed by a seafood course from PECHE Modern Coastal. Crab cakes with a croissant pinwheel, roasted garlic and lemon aioli and arugula were on the menu and the flavor combinations were simply fantastic.

PECHE’s sister restaurant STAGE Kitchen & Bar was next door offering a tuna and salmon tostada with avocado, eel sauce, spicy mayo, and cilantro. This was easily one of my favorite bites of the night. The tostada was crunchy and light with clean and bright flavors. No kidding, I could probably eat this every day for lunch.

I moved on the Smoke’s Family Catering and owner Phillip Smoke had whipped up enough barbecue to feed an army.  I had the pleasure of trying the smoked chicken with potato salad and it was the perfect pairing. Last but not least: dessert. I capped off the evening with a beautiful chocolate ganache-filled croissant with perfect lamination and flaky texture.

The inspiration behind the event

With a (very) full stomach, I caught up with PCBA President Lisa Proctor to talk about the event.

“We knew that COVID was really hard on a lot of our restaurants to get people back in,” said Proctor. “We wanted to do it in June because we wanted to celebrate our military. Everybody remembers them maybe on Memorial Day or different things, but June is the 80th anniversary of D-Day.”

“The military is always close to our heart,” she added. “We’re also very proud of our restaurants. They all have gone above and beyond.”

Tonight, the PCBA was honoring the Armed Forces and its brave veterans while bestowing two donation checks to very worthy causes.

The first check for $500 went to Folds of Honor. Since 2007, Folds of Honor has provided life-changing scholarships to the spouses and children of America’s fallen or disabled military. And now, their mission expands to the families of America’s first responders.

The second check for $500 was given to Light Up the Corners, a 501(c)(3) volunteer organization with an annual glowing, flashing, blinking, shining, nighttime running party and fundraiser in one.  All proceeds from the event go to benefit less fortunate children and families in the Peachtree Corners community who are struggling by giving them the chance to participate in life-enhancing programs and activities at the Fowler YMCA.

Over the past 12 years, the PCBA has awarded 19 scholarships and donated more than $156,000+ back to the Peachtree Corners community.

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Local Resident Opens AtWork Location in Peachtree Corners

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AtWork, one of nation’s leading staffing franchises, has opened its third Metro Atlanta location in Peachtree Corners, Georgia at 6185 Buford Highway, Suite E-100.

AtWork Peachtree Corners is locally-owned by Kamal Bhatia, an immigrant from India with decades of experience in hospitality and as the Senior Vice President of Operations of Atlanta-based Action Bartending School.

AtWork, one of nation’s leading staffing franchises, has opened its third Metro Atlanta location in Peachtree Corners.
Kamal Bhatia

“There is an incredible need for AtWork’s services in Peachtree Corners,” said Bhatia. “Since migrating here in 1996, I’ve witnessed Atlanta evolve and sprout new communities north of the city, including my own. Peachtree Corners has become a hub for thriving businesses, and my goal with this location is to be a key resource between companies and job seekers to support the continued growth of our local economy.”

Bhatia’s son and daughter will assist him in the business.

“This is an opportunity to create a legacy company to ensure our community is supported for generations to come,” he said.

For more than three decades, AtWork’s mission has been to connect people with jobs and jobs with people. With more than 100 locations nationwide, AtWork puts nearly 40,000 individuals to work each year in administrative, light-industrial, accounting and finance, hospitality, IT and management-level positions at some of the nation’s largest and most recognizable companies.

“We’re proud to open our doors in Peachtree Corners and provide a common place for both job seekers and growing businesses to turn for staffing solutions,” said Jason Leverant, President and COO of AtWork.

“AtWork will serve as a key resource to help employees thrive, businesses prosper and communities flourish. Kamal is the perfect partner to champion our mission and be a servant leader in her local community,” he added.

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Business and Birdies: PCBA to Host PGA Tour Championship Exec.

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Alex Urban, Executive Director of the TOUR Championship in Atlanta

Don’t miss your chance to connect and learn at the Peachtree Corners Business Association‘s (PCBA) After Hours Speaker Series. Mark your calendars for Thursday, July 25 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and head to the Hilton Atlanta Northeast (5993 Peachtree Industrial Blvd, Peachtree Corners, GA 30092).

This event features guest speaker Alex Urban, Executive Director of the TOUR Championship in Atlanta. Urban brings more than just golf expertise to the table. He is a graduate of Clemson and UGA with a background in communications and marketing, and he’s passionate about using his skills for social good.

His talk, “Stewarding to Serve: How Leaders Can Leverage Resources for Community Impact,” promises valuable insights for current or aspiring business leaders.

Plus, the PCBA will be presenting a donation to Paint Gwinnett Pink, a local breast cancer charity making a real difference.

Ticket prices range from $25 for early bird members to $40 for guests.

Register today to secure your spot!

And click here for more PCBA news.

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