Loving Hearts, Helping Hands: The Legacy of Stephen Corbin 1

Stephen Corbin’s memory lives on through foundation

Stephen Corbin was anything but ordinary.

A foster parent and Big Brother, devoted husband and father, Rotarian, Optimist and lifelong basketball fan, Stephen had a heart for kids and the drive to help others. His passing—two days before his twin daughters’ tenth birthday—left a hole that simply can’t be filled.

“He died two and a half years ago,” says his widow Angie. “It still feels like yesterday. Alex, Kylee and I miss him so much.”

It was from her grief and with the help and support of friends that Angie started the Stephen Corbin Heart of Gold Foundation, which helps low income and underprivileged youth participate in organized sports by removing the financial barriers that keep so many on the sidelines. Generally speaking, the foundation offers assistance for anyone under 18 who wants to participate in a sport, but cannot shoulder the financial burden alone.

“Steve always wanted to help kids have the things he didn’t have,” says Angie. “He had such a huge heart, especially for kids. I knew within 24 hours of his death that I needed to start something that would honor him, and I know that he’s smiling now as he sees what we’re doing. Our daughters have played key roles in the formation of the foundation, and without the selfless actions of my volunteers and friends, there would be no foundation.          

There are so many more kids living in poverty than we realize,” says Angie. “Many people are embarrassed to ask for help, or think playing sports is a luxury. We’re trying to bridge that gap.”

“Sometimes paying the initial fees is enough for a family,” she says, “and by taking care of registration fees we give them enough time to plan for the additional expenses that come later in the season. Steve knew that it wasn’t enough for the kids to just play; they need to be a true part of the team. If we’re helping a dancer, that dancer should be able to have a beautiful costume and be in the recital, just like the other dancers.”

As a new foundation, Angie’s primary goal is raising awareness of the foundation’s mission. Building support, raising funds and spreading the word to those who might benefit from the foundation are immediate goals.

“I was a grieving widow, and not entirely proficient in understanding the process of establishing a non-profit organization,” she says. Though she holds a degree in business and worked for Sprint before her daughters were born, Angie says that understanding IRS rules for establishing a non-profit was an education. She forges on because of the stories she hears from people who need what the foundation does.

One story of a family Angie hopes to help involves a single mom of five kids, three of whom want to play football. The mom didn’t have enough money to purchase Christmas gifts for the kids, and the kids’ wish lists for the holidays included necessities like mattresses.

Another involved two sisters who’d played softball for years, but whose mom could no longer afford the high tournament fees.

A third family was dealing with a father’s recent cancer diagnosis. His treatments required him to travel from Kansas City to New York, which meant he couldn’t work. The foundation helped his son play football.

“Sometimes when I’m overwhelmed,” says Angie. “I think of what Martin Luther King, Jr., said: ‘Faith is taking the first step even when you can't see the whole staircase.’ We may not be helping hundreds of children right now, though hopefully we will eventually. I know that Steve would remind me that making a difference for one person is important.

"The hardest part for me, other than missing him so much, is being patient. I want to help everyone right now. That’s what Steve would have tried to do. That’s his legacy, always extending a helping hand for others. Steve had enormous hands, and a heart of gold. He was such a Neil Young enthusiast that those words—heart of gold—are on his grave marker. He loved his motorcycle, and of course the acronym for Heart of Gold Foundation is HOG, which gives me chills."

They are working on a logo that will combine those elements, and communicate that helping hands come from compassion and love. The foundation is working hard so that they can help many more kids in Steve’s name.

"It might be selfish, but I’m very sentimental and deep down, doing this work keeps a part of him alive for us," says Angie. "I want some good to come from losing him. I want the world to know just how amazing he was.”