GLEN ELLYN - John Smith passed away 13 months ago, but his children are making sure his legacy lives on.
Smith coached youth sports in Glen Ellyn since 1986 and had coached football, basketball and baseball in a variety of capacities at Glenbard South from 2004 until his death last year at age 72 from complications from heart surgery.
All three of Smith’s children were star athletes at Glenbard South. Sons Mike and Chris quarterbacked the football team, and Chris played on the Raiders’ sectional championship basketball team in 2000. His daughter, Nancy Binger, played basketball for the Raiders and later at Judson University.
“My dad was so present and inspirational in our life,” Binger said. “He left so much with us, and I kind of feel like he’s still here.”
Binger and her brothers are continuing a tradition started by their father, who was known for aiding needy families so they could buy sports equipment for their children, many of whom were coached by Smith. The siblings want to continue that effort, so they started the John M. Smith Youth Sports Foundation.
“Our vision was that we would raise funds and continue our dad’s legacy,” Binger said. “We knew that he helped out a lot of people, but we found out even more that my mom didn’t even know about after he died.”
Just six weeks after Smith’s death, his sons held a golf outing on what would have been their father’s birthday. More than 100 people attended the golf outing and luncheon, raising more than $15,000.
The foundation will host its second golf outing Sept. 27 at Village Links in Glen Ellyn. Binger hopes to repeat last year’s success, which led to private donations of an additional $24,000 over the past year.
“We’re doing really well,” Binger said. “We haven’t done a lot of granting of funds yet and we’re ready to do that.We want to get connected to families and organizations that need money.”
Those organizations need not be in Glen Ellyn.
“This is all because of my dad,” Binger said. “He did a lot of his work in Glen Ellyn, and we want to expand that farther.
“We want to help anybody and everybody in need, just empower young athletes to be able to play sports and not let money get in the way. Whether it’s paying for fees or equipment or after school programs, we want to find those opportunities.”
Building the foundation has helped Binger and her brothers deal with the loss of their father, who extolled his players to be leaders, kind and humble.
“We want to encourage young athletes to do that,” Binger said. “But it’s helped us with the grief process, too.
“Continuing what he was doing helps us with our grieving because we’re putting our pain into purpose and that makes it a lot easier to get through. The world lost a good man when he left this earth and so we just really want to continue what he was doing.”
For information, visit the foundation website at www.jmsyouthsportsfoundation.org.