When he was 16, Zak Clayton opened his front door to a couple of policemen who had arrived to inform his father that Zak had been in a motorcycle accident and flown to a hospital by flight for life.
“It was very confusing,” Zak recalls. “It took a while for my dad and I to convince the officers that I was just fine and standing in the doorway talking to them. Then we learned that it had been two of my good friends.”
That eerie close call inspired Zak to launch his first fundraising campaign. He raised money to help his two buddies recover from their severe injuries as a result of the motorcycle accident.
Fast forward many years and Zak was suddenly the one in need of help. In August 2014, he was riding his motorcycle around a blind curve and was forced off the road by a car coming the opposite direction. It had crossed the double-yellow line and was in Zak’s lane.
“I was thrown off my motorcycle and into a fence,” says Zak. “I broke bones in my face, skull and neck, but my broken neck wasn’t diagnosed until two years later. The people who hit me, they left me there. I was on the side of the road for seven hours before help came.”
Start of Pay It Forward
After emerging from the hospital, Zak discovered that his desire to help others – all others, not just injured motorcyclists – had been rekindled, and he started Clayton PIF (Pay-it-Forward). It has since been renamed Community PIF to better capture the organization’s mission.
Zak Clayton in one of many Facebook videos about PIF events.
Community PIF brings together local merchants and local causes to create big impact, and anyone can participate any time simply by shopping at participating merchants.
Here’s how it works: When you shop at a participating merchant, all you have to do is take a picture of your receipt, then submit it to Community PIF and designate it to your cause of choice. You could donate to your kids’ school, a friend in need, or a nonprofit organization. The merchant agrees to pay a percentage of your purchase back to the cause of your choice.
Zak says his hardest challenge is educating shoppers about this easy way to support their community. He hopes to launch an app in the future that will make the process even easier.
In addition to Community PIF, Zak organizes other events under the umbrella of Community Cares. This organization endeavors to get clothes, food and other items to needy families, including injured bikers.
“When you get in an accident, insurance companies are in no hurry to help you,” explains Zak. “But in the meantime, your kids still need clothes and food doesn’t magically appear on your table. We can help them get clothing, life-critical needs, coats, school supplies, food. We do our best to help people maintain their lives while they put the pieces back together after a motorcycle accident.”
In fact, Community Cares doesn’t limit its efforts to motorcycle accident victims. The organization will help anybody in need.
How does Zak do it all? He hustles! Zak hosts several events throughout the year called, “Day of Donations,” where people can donate their unwanted goods and needy families can show up and “shop.”
“We set up these events in different cities and lay all the items out garage-sale-style,” says Zak. “People can have them for free. All they have to do is let us know what their situation is. If they can afford to make a donation, great, but that’s not necessary. I just want to make sure this stuff gets into the hands of the people who need it.”
He adds, “We’re getting ready to do school supplies and winter supplies. Even teachers – they have to buy a lot of those supplies out of their own pockets. We want to help them, too!”
Zak says he recently had a friend ask him how he did it all and if he was able to make a living for himself while doing so much for the community.
Zak responded, “Am I rich? No. But it’s worth it. I help people. That’s all I really want to do and I’m extremely happy.”