Brittany Hartsfield thought long and hard about all the fun ways she could celebrate her 21st birthday.
But in the end, she said, the former Johnson & Wales volleyball player wanted to remember the milestone date by doing something meaningful.
On Dec. 14, her birthday, Hartsfield will spend the day sponsoring two fundraising events in which proceeds will benefit the Semper Fi Fund, a nonprofit organization that supports wounded veterans and their families.
An aspiring Marine Corps officer, Hartsfield will host Volley for Vets, an adult volleyball tournament at Concord’s Carolina Courts. Additionally, she is putting herself through a 24-hour pull-up challenge called Raise the Bar, in which she will accept donations on behalf of the organization based on how many pull-ups she performs.
Hartsfield was a backup setter on the 2012 Wildcats team that reached the U.S. Collegiate Athletic Association national tournament. She is rallying some of her former teammates and past members of Johnson & Wales’ club volleyball program – some whom still are students – to join the cause.
“I was just thinking about it and decided to do a fundraiser,” said Hartsfield. “A lot of the money that is donated to the Semper Fi Fund goes directly to the soldiers and their families.”
Hartsfield graduated from Johnson & Wales in spring 2013 with an associate degree in culinary arts. She since has moved from South End to University City and worked as a sushi cook, a nanny and a volleyball coach at Carolina Courts.
Hartsfield is the daughter of two career Marine Corps veterans, and that branch of the military has always held a special place in her heart. Coming out of East Chapel Hill High in 2011, Hartsfield considered her career options as either joining the Corps or attending Johnson & Wales.
At the time, she was more interested in Italian cuisine and studying in Italy. During her freshman year, she was a member of the university’s club volleyball program.
When Hartsfield was a sophomore, coach Callie Phillips welcomed her to Johnson & Wales’ varsity team. The Wildcats finished with a 17-10 regular-season record and were consistently ranked in the USCAA’s top 20.
“I couldn’t be more proud of Brittany’s demonstration of organization and initiative in this endeavor,” said Phillips. “I’m thrilled that she can incorporate volleyball into her fundraising efforts and continue playing as she works to become a Marine officer.”
Hartsfield became passionate about accomplishing personal physical challenges: She took up running and other forms of exercise and became a vegetarian.
When she graduated, Hartsfield decided to apply to the Marine Corps’ Officer Candidate School. In April, she attended a mini-Officer Candidate School in Parris Island, S.C., and said she enjoyed its rigorous physical and mental challenges.
Hartsfield will continue Officer Candidate School in the summers until she completes her bachelor’s degree. She is enrolled online at Arizona State University and expects to graduate next fall with a degree in nutrition.
Being in the Marine Corps “was something I always wanted to do,” she said.
Hartsfield’s goal is to raise $2,100 for the Semper Fi Fund. Men and women can participate in the 4-on-4 volleyball tournament for $15 per person ($20 late registration). The winning team will receive championship T-shirts.
Hartsfield will play on a team with former Wildcats teammates Reanna Bray and Tori Dublino, and current Johnson & Wales student Josiah Braxton. Former university volleyball club members Trey Thom, Renee Williams and Mackenzie Vonkoenig will play on a separate team.
With the Pull-up Challenge, Hartsfield will raise money in two ways. First, she will attempt to do 21 pull-ups without stopping. For every pull-up short of 21, Hartsfield will donate $2 to the cause.
Second, Hartsfield will attempt to do 239 pull-ups over a 24-hour period: one for every year of the Marine Corps’ existence. People are invited to donate per the number of pull-ups she completes.
“I love how unselfish she is about this,” said Bray. “She’s taking her day and making it about everyone else. I don’t know how many people could do something like this for anyone else.”