Steven Baach Charities Fund
From the time he learned to walk, Steven Baach was playing sports.
"Steve was either kicking, shooting, throwing, hitting or catching a ball," said his father, Mike Baach. "As he grew, whether it was soccer, basketball, baseball or golf, he occupied all his free time with sports activities."
Although he was born in Houston, Steve spent his formative years in Medina, where he became a fervent fan of the local professional sports teams – particularly the Cleveland Browns. He rarely missed a game and often traveled to watch them in person.
So when he went out to enjoy a spring round of golf in April 2009, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. It wasn't until Steve left and was on his way home in Las Vegas that everything changed.
Steve died instantly in a car crash on April 17, 2009. "Perhaps it is not a coincidence that he was returning home from playing golf, one of the sports he loved, when the accident occurred," Mike said.
In the following weeks and months, Steve's family – including his mother, Jamie, his brother, Michael, and his fiancée, Gina – began thinking about how they could honor Steve's life and continue his passion for helping others through sport. They established the Steven Baach Charities Fund at Akron Community Foundation for exactly that purpose. The mission of the fund is to enrich the lives of disabled and disadvantaged youth by providing them opportunities to attend collegiate and professional sporting events.
Mike said that during Steve's years as a sports enthusiast, Steve had recognized that there were many people that were not able to attend athletic events, particularly disadvantaged youth and kids with disabilities. Because of his deep passion for the Cleveland Browns, Steve contacted the team's management and started the "Desert Browns Backers" on the Las Vegas Strip.
"Steve's stated purpose for launching the Backers group was to create an environment where displaced Browns fans in Nevada or those traveling to Las Vegas to visit had a safe, convivial environment to commune and watch the Browns play football on TV," Mike said. "However, Steve's true intent was to raise funds that were donated to the Cleveland Browns charities to provide opportunities for youth to attend games, which they otherwise could not afford."
Steve's highly organized approach to business and marketing led the Desert Browns Backers to become one of the most successful Browns groups in the country. Steve's efforts helped raise crucial dollars that he donated to help disadvantaged children attend collegiate and professional sporting events.
"It was then that he received the ‘calling' to get active in fundraising so that he could help others share in what he had found to have such a positive influence on him during his formative years," Mike said.
As a child, Steve had the benefit of seeing firsthand the results of dedication, hard work and commitment when he saw collegiate and professional athletes play in person. Many of these athletes became his role models and motivated him to succeed in school and as an adult.
"He understood that in business, just as in sports, careful planning, practice and execution paid compounding dividends. Since Steve believed strongly that being an active part of following sports teams and individual players helped make him a success in business, he was sure that helping the less fortunate be a part of such activities help them grow in life as well," Mike said.
When Steve died, his family wanted to make sure his passion for helping others would continue. Their fund at Akron Community Foundation will help them do just that.
"Steve spent countless hours organizing, managing and participating in numerous successful events that raised money to be used exclusively for making others happy," Mike said. "It is now our intent to carry out Steve's passionate efforts through his fund. All of us that love Steve feel that we are touching him through our efforts to support his fund."
Mike said the family chose to approach Akron Community Foundation because they were confident the foundation would effectively help them carry on Steve's mission.
"Because of its broad and enviable reputation in Northeast Ohio, (Akron Community Foundation) was the first and only organization that came to mind when we began the process of establishing Steve's fund," Mike said.
Since the fund's creation in July 2009, the family has received an outpouring of support from family, friends and even strangers. Gifts and messages of encouragement have come in from as far away as Australia and the Middle East. All contributions to the fund will be used to perpetuate Steve's legacy of helping youth attend sporting events.
"Although we, his friends and family, may not have recognized it at the time, Steve was teaching us valuable lessons that every day is to be enjoyed, as we are truly blessed with life. He also showed us that when we share and actively help others, our lives, too, become more fulfilled," Mike said.
His family said it is their hope that the Steven Baach Charities Fund keeps Steve's spirit of generosity alive and helps instill it in others.
"Steve never failed to openly express his appreciation to all that were important to him. Relationships with family, friends and business associates were all 'comrades in joy' to Steve," Mike said. "(Everyone) that supports Steve's fund is helping keep his warm, friendly and generous spirit alive and growing. This spirit, we hope, will last forever."