As he pulled on his new red Kansas sweatshirt before leaving for school the morning of Sept. 12, Ben Kastner said to his mother, “Mom, it’s September 12.”
Gina Defeo Kastner, n’89, instantly understood the reference: Her youngest son, 12-year-old Ben, had completed his yearlong quest to wear KU gear every day for an entire year.
As first reported in kualumni.org’s Alumni News blog of July 10, Ben last year chose to make a sartorial statement about his true blue feelings for all things KU and do whatever he had to to become known as the most ardent and loyal Jayhawks fan in Michigan.
Though his stated quest is now complete, Ben says he sees no need to bring it to an end.
“It did make me feel good that I could support the team I love,” he says. “So I’m going to try for another year, I think.”
Gina says she and her husband, Brian, m’96, continue to support Ben’s unwavering passion for all things Crimson and Blue–as long his Jayhawk T-shirts and hoodies are washed and cleaned.
“He is going strong,” Gina says. “He’s not stopping.”
Rock Chalk, Ben, and know that your fellow Jayhawks everywhere are rooting you on to another successful year in KU gear.
His parents are both KU alumni, and the family has always embraced Jayhawk fandom, flying crimson-and-blue flags from the porch of their home in Grand Rapids, Mich., as well as on the mast of their sailboat and at their vacation cabin. But sometime last summer, around the time he turned 11, Ben Kastner, the youngest of four children of Brian, m’96, and Gina Defeo Kastner, n’89, decided it was time to take it up a notch.
“I liked Kansas a little before, and then I started really liking them and I wanted everyone to know I liked them,” Ben explains. “If people don’t know me and they don’t know I like Kansas, then if they see me wearing a Kansas shirt then they’ll know. They’ll know I’m that one kid who likes Kansas.”
So Ben announced that, as of Sept. 12, 2012, he would wear a Jayhawk T-shirt every single day, without exception, for an entire year, along with as much other KU attire as he could manage–shorts, sweatshirt, even crimson-and-blue shoes. “It’s not just a T-shirt,” Gina Kastner says. “He thinks KU colors.”
Ben has stuck with his commitment, and is now called “Kansas” by friends at school and at his basketball and football camps.
“Kansas is, like, the best thing ever,” Ben says. “So I really wanted to do it. I made sure I wore a Kansas shirt every day.”
Living in Grand Rapids, Ben is surrounded by Michigan fans. He groans when reminded of the Jayhawks’ painful overtime loss to the Wolverines in the NCAA Tournament. “It was terrible,” he says. “I was really upset.”
But his KU dedication never wavered. Ben still plans to one day attend KU–”Yes!” he exclaims, when asked whether he’ll come to Mount Oread for college–and he fervently hopes that his family will make a trip to Lawrence during next winter’s basketball season so he can attend his first game in Allen Field House.
“I like being the kid who likes that one team that nobody else really cares about,” Ben says. “It’s really awesome.”
Gina Kastner says that although it might be natural to suspect that an 11-year-old boy would eventually lose enthusiasm for any yearlong commitment that requires daily follow-through, she and her husband had already observed that Ben tended to be focused and determined.
“It has done nothing but gain strength,” she says of her son’s KU quest. “He was just bound and determined to be the best KU fan in Michigan. It’s his identity. It lights his fire.”
Gina concedes that she was nearly the reason that Ben’s streak could have crashed to an early ending: The family last year hosted two Mexican exchange students, and their mother sent along Mexican soccer jerseys as gifts for the Kastner kids; when Gina insisted that they all line up wearing the new shirts for a photograph to be sent to Mexico, Ben complied only after insisting that he had to wear a KU shirt underneath.
“And of course in the picture,” Gina says with a laugh, “he’s lifting up the jersey so the Jayhawk shows. He said, ‘Mom, people need to know that I am a Jayhawk fan and I’m doing what I said I would do and I’m not going back on it.'”
Rock Chalk, Ben. You are most definitely part of the Jayhawk flock.
Ben probably didn’t know that Sept. 12, the day he took his vow, is KU’s “birthday”– the first day of classes was Sept. 12, 1866. Clearly, he’s destined to be a Jayhawk. Click here to see more photos of Ben in Jayhawk gear, or watch the slideshow below. Photos courtesy of Gina Kastner.