Hometown love is more than skin deep to Karvel Anderson. He sports a “City with a Heart” symbol proudly every day, though its importance is often misunderstood.
“Elkhart’s my home. It’s tatted on my skin ... 574,” he said. “That’s never going to change.”
But Karvel has changed and the honesty of his words, though at times skewed in translation, embody his evolution. Elkhart is not a bad place to live, but it’s just not where he needs to be in order to embrace his dreams.
He’s said it before and reiterated that point this week.
Nearly a year ago, Anderson, an Elkhart Memorial graduate, was profiled in an NBC News web feature for his poverty to soon-to-be college graduate saga. Quotes attributed to him raised eyebrows at home.
The documentation of Karvel’s story began in 2009 with “The Elkhart Project,” which took hard looks at how the economic nosedive impacted the city and its people. The story described Anderson’s survival through homelessness, hunger, family instability and educational challenges. It also shared how special friends and an adopted family in Elkhart kept his life on track.
When NBC returned in 2013 to revisit Karvel, he’d left Elkhart and become a standout basketball player at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh.
“I love the person that Elkhart made me become,” he said in the piece, written by Tony Dokoupil, a senior staff writer. “But at the same time I don’t ever want to go back to live there.”
Karvel also said at the conclusion of the piece, “I just feel like I can be someone that shows people that you can get out, I really would, if I could, take everyone and move them somewhere else.”
Honest words, though never meant to be hurtful.
As Karvel Anderson sets off on his next adventure — playing professional basketball in Italy — he wanted it to be clear to all that Elkhart is and always be his hometown, but it won’t be his home.
"The last 10 years, I can’t believe it all,” Karvel said Monday from Pittsburgh. “Getting to Italy, getting into a routine there, being a college graduate ... it’s such a tremendous change to where I am right now. I’ve been very blessed.
"With all the things I’ve done so far, I knew I had to leave Elkhart because I knew there was more out there for me. To do more things, the things I wanted, I had to do it outside of Elkhart.”
After the story was published, Karvel said he never expected the personal backlash he received. He spoke with Jerel Jackson, a mentor and former coach at Memorial, who said Elkhartans approached him for a week asking about what Anderson alluded to in the feature.
"Those were not my intentions, but I meant what I said,” Karvel said. “Elkhart made me the person I am now. It’s just not where I wanted to be to get ahead and take life where I wanted.
"I’m very proud of myself, proud of what I’ve been able to do. I’ve always wanted to travel the world, I wanted to get a degree from college. I wasn’t even sure I’d graduate high school. I’m very happy where I am.”
Elkhart is part of Karvel Anderson. Karvel Anderson is part of Elkhart. We all should be thankful for that.