BRIDGEPORT — Adam Hines leans in close toward his desk and draws quickly on the T-shirt he's making, which for the moment serves as a blank canvas awaiting ideas.
The Woodlawn artist is designing the shirt for his friend, the professional punk rock marathon runner George Melichar, who will be running in Sunday's Bank of America Chicago Marathon.
"I'm sending a message to keep on running and never give up. It's a token of respect," Hines said.
The pair first met back in April, when Melichar visited the Chicago Cultural Center, the former home to Project Onward, a nonprofit that provides art instruction for the developmentally disabled. Hines, 27, is autistic.
"I was empowered and impressed by his work. I had my portrait done by him and we've been friends ever since. I want to be part of his life. I want people to know his story and know what an amazing artist he is," Melichar said.
A former commodities trader at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Melichar, 35, of New Orleans, is being sponsored by Hard Rock restaurants and hotels around the world to be a goodwill ambassador of sorts, taking up causes as he crisscrosses the globe participating in races across the country.
(In fact, he's running a 10K race in Brooklyn on Saturday before flying to Chicago to run the marathon in Corral C.)
At Project Onward's brand new Bridgeport home, Hines has adorned his friend's shirt — which Melichar sewed by hand and shipped to Chicago — with a small portrait of himself and Melichar, plus a vibrant scattering of buildings, street signs and motivational messages. Melichar won't see it until race day.
The finished product will be another standout feature for the marathon runner, who stands 6 foot 5 inches and wears a tall mohawk. On message boards and online stories, fellow marathoners say his positive presence during a race is like a shot in the arm.
"You shine a bright light to everyone around. You actually GLOW!" is how one racer puts it.
After the race, Hines and others from Project Onward will meet Melichar at the finish line to congratulate him.
The shirt, meanwhile, will make its way to Wyandotte, Mich., where it will be featured among Melichar’s other hand-sewn pieces at the Downriver Council for the Arts.