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Late High School Coach’s Legacy Lives, In Form of Foundation Donation to Mooseheart

Mooseheart Executive Director Scott Hart poses with (from left) Donna Sternaman, Ellie Sternaman and Nick Sternaman during the inaugural Sterny Way Classic.

Mooseheart Executive Director Scott Hart poses with (from left) Donna Sternaman, Ellie Sternaman and Nick Sternaman during the inaugural Sterny Way Classic.

MOOSEHEART, IL, April 21 — Gregg Sternaman was a man whose life was built around his giving nature – a spirit that could not be contained in one lifetime.

And the first beneficiary of the foundation that is the extension of the giving spirit of this high school coach who died before his time, is Mooseheart Child City & School — specifically its football program, which is about to receive new helmets, shoulder pads and other equipment, all thanks to the Sterny Way Foundation.

Sternaman, who died of cancer in late 2009, coached football and baseball at Highland Park High School and also at Libertyville High School. He switched his undying love from one sport to the other, season after season, touching the lives of athletes along the way, dispensing catch phrases that became known as Sternyisms as he did so.

His devotion to those two communities, to those sports and his desire to help those in need became the cornerstones of the Sterny Way Foundation and ultimately to the award of $5,000 to Mooseheart, which was made on Monday, April 19, at Miller Park in Milwaukee, where Libertyville and Highland Park played in the inaugural Sterny Classic baseball game.

You really get the sense of the passion Gregg lived life with, Mooseheart Executive Director Scott Hart said. He had a passion for athletics and for youth sports and for teaching his players how to be a part of a team and how to be a man, and how he really took young boys and helped make men out of them. This was the passion of his life.

Sternaman received the news in October 2009 that cancer had returned to his body; he died last Dec. 7. During his last six weeks of life, he set in motion the foundation that bears his name.

The foundation came together rather quickly, said Donna Sternaman, Greggs widow. I had to drive him to the appointments and we spent a number of hours in the car in that time. He said that what he wanted to do was to create a foundation and for it to help less fortunate athletes.

Gregg Sternaman grew up in Ironton, a small town in southeastern Ohio — and also the home of Ironton, OH Lodge 701 of the Loyal Order of Moose.

He loved his hometown and the Ironton Tigers, where he played football in high school, Donna Sternaman said. He scanned their Web site and he saw that the local Moose Lodge helped the school from time to time. That led him to the Web site for Mooseheart, and he said: This is the perfect place.

Things continued to move quickly. The Saturday after Thanksgiving, a fundraiser took place at Highland Parks school auditorium. In addition to the items that were auctioned, a number of current and former players attended.

The fact that it was the Saturday after Thanksgiving helped many more boys attend, Donna Sternaman said. It was so thrilling to see. Many people dont get a chance in their lifetimes to see and hear the things that people have to say about them, and Gregg got that.

True to his wishes, the first monetary award from the foundation was made to Mooseheart. Hart attended the Sterny Way Classic, a game from which the winner receives a traveling trophy which features three miniature baseball bats. One is Libertyville Orange and another is Highland Park Blue. In the center is a mini-bat adorned with Gregg Sternamans photograph and the years of his life: 1/6/52-12/7/09.

Hart said, Being at the game and talking to various people from both schools as well as Donna and his son Nick and daughter Ellie, you got both the sense of respect that the fans and coaches and players had for Gregg Sternaman and the deep sense of loss from his family as well as others. Even though everyone enjoyed the game, you also got that feeling that a lot of people really miss him.

Through the equipment donation, one financial need at Mooseheart has been met — and Hart said the schools football team will certainly be grateful for the helmets, shoulder pads, footballs and other equipment that will arrive soon thanks to the Sterny Way Foundation.

(Gregg) would be so proud to know the Mooseheart school and its athletes are getting some new equipment, Donna Sternaman said. He was always torn between his love for baseball and football. Football season would come and hes say I love football. Then it would get to be spring and hed hear the crack of a bat and hed come in and say, I love baseball.

Given the speed with which it has operated since October 2009, the Sterny Way Foundation has yet to have a board meeting. Donna Sternaman said the nature of future awards and to whom those awards will go, is still yet to be determined.

But she said she wants to know more about Mooseheart and plans a visit this fall to the campus and to a football game.

I want to get down and tour the facility and to meet some of those young men, she said.

And in doing that, Donna Sternaman will help further the legacy of her husband and the foundation that continues to breathe life into the lives of young athletes.

Mooseheart Child City & School is a 1,000-acre community and school for children and teens in need of a secure home, located just south of Batavia, IL, between Illinois Route 31 and Randall Road.

Founded in 1913, Mooseheart is supported completely through private donations – the great majority of which come from the 1.1 million men and women of the Moose fraternal organization, in roughly 1,800 Lodges and 1,600 Chapters located throughout the U.S., Canada, Great Britain and Bermuda. Moose International headquarters is located on the Mooseheart campus.

Since its founding, Mooseheart has operated a complete, accredited kindergarten-through-high-school academic program, plus art, music, vocational training and interscholastic sports. It is an extremely nurturing and student-tailored program, with an average student-teacher ratio of 12-1.

Mooseheart students who complete their studies with a 3.0 GPA or better (4.0=A) are eligible for up to five years of annually renewable scholarship funding, covering tuition, room and board in an amount comparable to that required for an in-state student at an Illinois public university.

Mooseheart is currently home to nearly 230 students, ranging in age from preschoolers to high school seniors. Applications for admission to Mooseheart are considered from any family whose children are, for whatever reason, lacking a stable home environment. Mooseheart boasts its own U.S. Post Office and a fully functioning branch of Fifth Third Bank.

In addition to Mooseheart, Moose International also supports Moosehaven, a 70-acre retirement community near Jacksonville, FL founded in 1922; and conducts more than $90 million worth of community service programs annually.

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