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Ward foundation celebrates life of ‘everybody’s best friend’

Foundation celebrates life of ‘everybody’s best friend’

The Steven Bradley Ward Foundation is helping area families with medical expenses in memory of a man who was "everybody's best friend."

The board of directors of the Steven Bradley Ward Foundation presented a check for $5,000 in July to Clifford Ayres of Canton Township to help with the medical expenses of his daughter, Lily. With Ayres and his daughter, center, are, from left, Jim Hyland, Joel Hott, Summerly Kulik, Ayres’ father, Tom, Brian Ward, Linda Ward, George Ward and Sara Grazulis. Not pictured are board members John Vensko and Brian Jones.
The board of directors of the Steven Bradley Ward Foundation presented a check for $5,000 in July to Clifford Ayres of Canton Township to help with the medical expenses of his daughter, Lily. With Ayres and his daughter, center, are, from left, Jim Hyland, Joel Hott, Summerly Kulik, Ayres’ father, Tom, Brian Ward, Linda Ward, George Ward and Sara Grazulis. Not pictured are board members John Vensko and Brian Jones.

Steven Ward was the best son, the best brother, the best friend and had the best smile in Washington.

That is how his family described him at a Celebration of Life luncheon recognizing CORE organ donors after the 34-year-old died Dec. 6, 2015, from complications from the flu.

That’s also why it was important to his family and friends to continue to honor his memory.

And they have done that by establishing the Steven Bradley Ward Foundation.

“The moment he died, we said we were going to celebrate him,” said Linda Ward, his mother and president of the foundation. “He was just too dynamic to let go.

“He was superb. He was everybody’s best friend. If I heard one more time at the funeral home that he was my best friend … I said, ‘This boy must have been exhausted.’ Everybody came to him for advice.”

Ward was a 2000 graduate of Washington High School and a 2004 graduate of Waynesburg College with a bachelor of arts degree in criminal justice. At 6-3, 270 pounds, he was a big, burly guy, and a gifted athlete.

After the flu attacked his heart, Ward suffered a massive stroke and a pulmonary embolism. He died at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh.

The foundation’s mission is to help children and families, primarily in Washington County, who are experiencing medical issues or trying to overcome other tragedies.

They have held several fundraisers, and in July, they made their first large donation, presenting Clifford Ayres of Canton Township and his daughter, Lily, with a $5,000 donation. (See related story.) The board also has donated $500 and $200 to other families to help with medical expenses, and members plan to contribute money in Steve’s name to other organizations, such as Toys for Tots.

“We had just started up, and said, ‘OK. We raised a bunch of money. We want to give it to somebody who really needs it,’” Linda Ward said.

After reading about Lily’s medical condition in the Observer-Reporter, the board’s interest was piqued. Then they met Lily, and the deal was sealed.

“We’re an informal board, but we’re a good-hearted, great bunch,” Linda said.

And she is sure Steve would approve.

“He loved little kids,” Linda said. “He never had any of his own. Everybody’s kids were his kids.”

The foundation’s first event, a Snowball Dance, was held last December, and it was a huge success. Through admission sales, a Chinese auction and other donations, the board raised $14,000.

The second event, Steve’s Summer Slam, was an outdoor event that included a homerun derby and cornhole tournament. By the time the foundation paid expenses, it had raised just $2,000.

“We were still happy with that,” said Linda, adding the board plans to hold the event again this summer.

On Dec. 2, on what would have been Ward’s 36th birthday, the Steven Bradley Ward Foundation will hold its second Snowball Dance at American Legion Edwin Scott Linton Post 175 in Washington. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., and Shades of Time will perform from 8 p.m. to midnight. There also will be a Chinese auction and tip boards.

“We are going to celebrate,” Linda said. “People talk about him every day. He was such a joy. You can’t talk about him without smiling or laughing.”

To purchase tickets for the Snowball Dance, call Linda Ward at 412-217-7514.