LITTLE EGG HARBOR – A lifetime area resident, Michael Patrick Hogan is the first to admit he started off life a bit rough around the edges.
Some might still find the 46-year-old man to look a bit intimidating, giving credence to the old adage that you can’t judge a book by its cover. Meanwhile, the reality is that there’s nothing daunting about Hogan – unless you consider any ill effects that could come from random acts of kindness.
The day before he turned 18, Hogan landed in some legal trouble. Teenage pranks could have found him behind bars. Instead, the court decided the young man would be better off somewhere else.
The New Jersey Youth Challenge Academy ran a bootcamp-like program that was a novel idea at Fort Dix at that time. The six month residential quasi-military training environment turned out to be lifechanging for the young man who might have been headed down a bad path.
One of the first changes came when program organizers sheered Hogan’s long locks to conform to a military haircut. Nearly 30 years later, the Little Egg Harbor resident still maintains the same version of the buzz cut. Hogan said it’s who he became after literally learning the ropes to a changed behavior.
“The bootcamp got me into the position I’m in now,” said Hogan. “It deprogrammed me and helped me get through some of the bad times I went through as a kid.”
That’s not to say the program was an easy one even as far as dealing with the others he lived with for six months. Hogan’s attitude and look quickly earned him a “Mad dog” nickname.
“I was rough,” Hogan shared. “When I bulked up and tattooed my entire body, it was my way of putting on a suit of armor. Back then, the way I acted was actually a protective mechanism.”
Thinking back, he admitted he might have had his own sense of fear concerning his surroundings and the others sentenced to the same program.
From getting up early and making his bed, to following instructions, to taking notes, Hogan learned quite a bit about a structured environment. Some of his classmates felt so comfortable with the regimented lifestyle that they ultimately enlisted; Hogan did not.
It wasn’t as if bad behavior was something tolerated in Hogan’s home as one of five siblings. His mother, Mary practiced “tough love” with her son and continues to be a huge influence in his life.
Hogan suggested he’s still a work in progress. He suffers from extreme anxiety that often interferes with his daily life. While Hogan claims he stutters and has some uncontrollable tics, none were noticeable during a two hour interview with him.
However, Hogan said the stuttering led others to bully him and caused him to be timid early on. In his youth, he was a bit smaller than the other kids. Yet, when he saw others tormented, he put aside his own fears and intervened. To this day, he maintains a zero tolerance for bullying.
A little more than a year ago, Hogan felt the challenges of his anxiety reach an incredible high. A professional in the insulation industry, he was asked to help out on a job in San Antonio on short notice.
“I’d never flown on an airplane or even been outside New Jersey,” said Hogan. “I wish I’d never asked anybody about airports because when I got to Newark Airport, I was terrified.”
The ropes training from nearly three decades ago kicked in as he heard the voices of his drill instructors.
“I could hear them saying they weren’t going to steer me wrong,” Hogan shared. “They were telling me what to do and that I was not going to fall. They were with me every step of the way.”
This served to remind him that everything was going to be okay and continued as reassurances once he got to work in San Antonio.
Meanwhile, Hogan also has a preconceived notion that he comes off socially awkward. His words appear a bit contradictory considering some of the things he’s done over the years.
Although he was raised in the Catholic religion, Hogan said that he considers himself more spiritual. He doesn’t attend church but prefers to think that listening to different people talk about God gives him a better perspective.
“The biggest joy I get out of life is being of service to other people,” stressed Hogan. “It’s almost intoxicating to me.”
There was the time that he spotted an older lady on the beach who dragged some heavy bags of cat food to take care of some ferals.
“It was the middle of the summer and there were other grown men watching her struggle,” he said. “She was actually from Philadelphia and was very sick. She just came down to feed the cats.”
The woman has since died but Hogan found it incredulous that he was the only one to offer her help.
When he learned on social media that the bikes of two young boys had been stolen, he stepped in and bought them new ones. A woman who was obviously under the influence lost her keys at Walmart and Hogan strapped her into his back seat and made sure she got home safely.
“She wasn’t doing so well and a lot of people were making an effort to stay away from her,” Hogan shared. “I approached her and offered her the ride home. It didn’t matter to me that she was a hot mess.”
Social media posts continue to serve as a means for Hogan offering help to others. It hit him hard when he learned a young boy’s crab trap was stolen during the few minutes he put it into the water and ran home to the bathroom.
“He got it for his birthday, and it was really cool,” he said. “It was the color of the American flag, red white and blue.”
Hogan made contact with the family and not only picked up some crab traps, he also bought some fishing poles and was extra thrilled when a Walmart employee learned what he was doing and added to the pile.
As the community rallied to bring clothes and household items to victims of a fire a few years ago, Hogan decided to take a different approach.
“I knew the township was going to fill the void with clothing and things,” he explained. “I went with toys figuring it was the first thing kids would think about.”
A young man’s admission that it was his grandmother’s dying wish to see the beach also caught Hogan’s attention. Fundraising efforts he spearheaded resulted in a beach compatible wheelchair.
Some of Hogan’s good deeds have been smaller is scale but left large impacts. Despite his trepidations with social anxiety, he has approached strangers on multiple occasions with random notes of kindness and given away lottery tickets.
One time he was putting stickers on one of the notes when he spotted two women by the side of his pickup truck. He added a smiley sticker to the notes, rolled down his window and handed them to the pair and drove away. He later found out that his gift had made it into the hands of a mother and daughter who hadn’t seen one another in a long time.
“It comes down to what you put out to the universe you’ll get back,” said Hogan. “But that’s not my reason for doing things. I believe everyone deserves a different type of energy and I want to give it to them.”
“People may forget the things you say and do,” Hogan reminded. “But people will never forget the way you make them feel.”
Hogan and his wife Christina are proud parents of 15-year-old Chase. Hogan also has a 21-year-old daughter named Faith Madison from a prior relationship.