The relationship started between former Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Santana Dotson and Wisconsin Harley-Davidson in Oconomowoc in the summer.
It continues to this day and has blossomed into so much more.
At the core of this partnership has been an effort to help those less fortunate.
That was the basis for having Dotson, who was part of the Packers' 1996 Super Bowl winning team, appear at a breakfast at the dealership during Harley's 110th anniversary celebration. Those proceeds went to the Santana Dotson Foundation, which helps economically challenged students in urban and rural communities through scholarships and enrichment programs.
"Santana's 71 Ways" fund was created in early November. With the winter coming, this fund collected coats across the area and served hot meals to children and adults in need across the Milwaukee and Waukesha area.
"We were spearheading this along with Santana," said Dianne Crowley, marketing and events manager at Harley-Davidson. "As a company, we believe in giving back. If we can help with our resources, that's awesome. We're glad to build that relationship."
The fundraiser came to Waukesha a couple weeks ago when coats were distributed and a hot meal was served at St. Luke's Lutheran Church.
"Once Waukesha was earmarked as an area in need, this church made sense from a location standpoint (centrally located) and was a great facility, as it provided ample space for a coat distribution area, a separate book and reading area, a downstairs cafeteria for the meals and a separate area for kids crafts and projects," Crowley said. "The church and its members were supportive of the effort."
Crowley said social workers from the Waukesha area were contacted and assisted in identifying and reaching out to families and individuals in need and who would benefit from the coat distribution and meals.
In total, the fundraiser collected nearly 1,000 coats.
"It was absolutely a huge success," Crowley said. "It was a constant flow of people getting fit with coats, and we were amazed at how many brand-new coats and namebrand coats were given, along with other gently used warm clothing."
Robert Moakley, owner of Wisconsin Harley-Davidson, added, "We are pleased to assist in this effort and to partner with Santana in making this ongoing campaign to aid less fortunate children in our area a reality."
Dotson flew in from his hometown of Houston to participate in the event. The event was named "Santana's 71 Ways" after his jersey number.
"Everyone had the extra fun surprise of Santana coming in and hanging out with them for the afternoon," Crowley said. "He came in and not only met with everyone but had lots of fun conversations and read to a lot of kids."
This successful fundraiser came after Dotson left quite the impression on the community and Harley-Davidson during the Harley Fest. But Dotson almost didn't make it to the area this summer.
"We got the word that Santana's mother was very ill, and we were in a panic because we promised people he was going to be there," Crowley said. "But the great thing about Santana is that he didn't want to go back on his word, so he called his good friends LeRoy Butler and Gilbert Brown, so we got two for the price of one."
Dotson eventually flew to Wisconsin and participated in many of the Harley events.
"It was one of those things where all the planets and stars aligned," Crowley said.
Crowley and the folks at Harley then asked Dotson whether he would like to continue to partner in the future.
"After that was done we asked him if he'd be interested in doing more for kids in Wisconsin," Crowley said. "So we put our heads together, and we talked with other individuals from other foundations and those who cater to specific populations in need and were able to develop Santana's 71 Ways."
Besides the Waukesha church, the fundraiser distributed hot meals to those in need in December at the Hephatha Evangelical Lutheran Church in the inner-city of Milwaukee. Crowley said that church was targeted because of the location and because many in that area have limited or no transportation and because of "the minister's positive youth programs."
With the way the first fundraiser went, Crowley sees the partnership with Dotson continuing. One way, she said, could be looking for ways to help feed kids in the summer when school is out.
And she expects Santana's 71 Ways to expand beyond the Greater Milwaukee area.
"It's only going to grow," Crowley said. "We'll look to evolve this into other events specifically for helping children and families in need."