*Arizona's West Valley View *Fox Channel 10 News *104.7 KISS FM *The Arizona Republic *Arizona State University Cronkite NewsWatch *St. Helena Star Newspaper in St. Helena, California *For Cubs Fans Only By Rich Wolfe - Published in 2008 *The Ryan and Vicky Show - Chicago, Illinois West Valley View
It was Steve Berry’s dream to share his love for the Chicago Cubs baseball team with his yet-to-be-conceived son by taking the boy to a game at the Windy City’s famed Wrigley Field.
That never happened.
Two and a half years ago, when Berry developed an infection around his heart and died unexpectedly at the age of 24, he had been married just three months — and did not yet have a child.
The day after Berry’s death, his parents, Mike and Jan, and his sister, Sara, flew from their Goodyear homes to the Chicago area where Steve and his wife, Melissa, had lived.
Naturally, they were devastated and uncertain if they could bear the pain of burying Steve. But as the family set out to make the funeral arrangements, what Mike Berry calls “a miracle” happened.
“That morning, Jan. 26, was my birthday, and I was just overcome with emotion,” Mike said. “It’s probably the hardest I ever cried in my life. I remember thinking, ‘I don’t want anybody singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to me today. This is not going to be a happy day.’
“But then I heard ... well, it was a thought, but a thought that wasn’t mine. This is going to sound corny, like something out of Field of Dreams, but the ‘thought’ was that something special was going to happen on this day — and that when it happened, I would know it.”
Mike laughed at the memory.
“I just sort of looked at the ceiling and said, ‘Sure. Right.’ And then we got into our car to drive to the funeral home. It was a very somber trip, of course. But at one point, Jan’s sister commented on how a lot of the money spent on funerals could be better used by donating it to a charity in the person’s name.
“That’s when it hit me,” Mike said. “That’s when I knew we were going to start a Steve Berry memorial.”
Mike’s concept soon had a name — “Steve’s Dream” — as well as a very specific purpose: to search out parent-child couples in front of the Chicago Cubs’ spring-training field in Mesa’s Hohokam Park; tell them about Steve and his dream; and present them with two free, premium-seat tickets to that day’s game.
“We’re season ticket holders for the Cubs’ spring-training games, and we now have 10 tickets for each game,” Mike said. “Steve and I used to go all the time, and the bond we built during those games was so special. So we thought, why not help other fathers and sons, or mothers and daughters, build that kind of bond?
“We went from being completely devastated to being completely excited about what we could do through ‘Steve’s Dream.’ This was a miracle. This was a gift.”
Ticket masters Since Steve’s Dream was realized, Mike, Jan and Sara have bestowed more than 100 tickets on some very surprised, deeply touched and, sometimes, extremely skeptical parent-child baseball fans.
“I’ll get there about an hour and a half before the game starts, walk through the crowd and ask people if they have tickets,” Mike said. “If they say ‘no,’ I ask if I can have a minute of their time — and you can tell they’re thinking, ‘Oh, great, what’s this guy selling?’”
Instead of a sales pitch, however, Mike offers them the free tickets with two conditions: That they “forget about all their problems and just enjoy the day with each other,” and that after the game, they send an e-mail to the Steve’s Dream Web site.
“As soon as we tell them why we’re there, their reaction is wonderful; they’re receptive, compassionate, understanding and grateful — all of the above,” Mike said.
And the good feelings are 100 percent reciprocal.
“It’s just the most amazing feeling,” said Sara, who proudly sports a “Steve” tattoo on her left shoulder. “When I’m giving people the tickets, I can close my eyes and hear my brother telling me how proud he is.”
“For us,” Mike said, “it’s rewarding just knowing that we’re touching other people’s lives. But the real reward is knowing that Steve died for a reason. We have been so blessed to find the reason for it. That makes dealing with his not being here so much easier.”
Jan doesn’t go to many baseball games, but she is the first to open the e-mails sent by those who benefit from Steve’s Dream.
“To read about the growing relationships between these parents and children is something that we never could have imagined,” Jan said. “This is what gets us through Steve’s death. He is definitely with us on this. I really believe he’s picking the people, we’re not.”
Dream on The Berrys have two ultimate goals for Steve’s Dream: To turn it into a legitimate, nationally known charity, and to actually send parent-child teams to Wrigley Field.
“If you’re a baseball fan, Wrigley Field is a shrine.” Mike said. “Well, I received a one-sentence e-mail from a Chicago resident that said, ‘I would like to donate some of my Wrigley Field seats to Steve’s Dream.’
“So far, he’s donated six sets of seats in the second row, upper deck, between first base and home plate ... So we figure that, in a few years, maybe we really make Steve’s Dream come true.”
Thus far, financial support for the project has come entirely from the Berrys, their friends and their family members.
“If anyone wanted to donate money, that would be great; we could use it to buy more season tickets,” Mike said. “But what we’d really like is help in filling out all of the 501(C)(3) paperwork so we can become a legitimate charity. It’s a 50-page application, and it would be great to find someone who’s not going to charge us several thousand dollars to complete it.”
Mike Berry paused, then offered an alternate thought.
“But you know what would really be cool? If people would just do the same thing we’re doing in their own way. If you’re going to a game tonight, buy another set of seats and just give them to someone.
“The feeling you get by doing that is ... indescribable.”
For information on how you can help the Berry family realize Steve’s Dream, visit www.stevesdream on the Internet.
Mike Burkett can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. This next Article was sent to us by someone who was touched by Steve's Dream. We were thrilled to know he took the time to write such a beautiful article about his experince.
"Below is a piece I do once a week for our local paper, the St. Helena Star. I thought you might be interested. Cindy and I will make a humble donation to your wonderful cause. Thank you so much for letting us get to know your family. May Steve rest with God and be content in the amazing amount of joy he is spreading throughout our country." All the Best, Jeffrey Earl Warren St. Helena, Calif. (You can also see the article at)
St. Helena Star Column, March 31, 2006 - Notes from Spring Training
They say Disneyland is the happiest place on Earth. If so, Spring training is surely the nicest spot on the globe. At this time of the year, Scottsdale Park, home of the Giants, sports more smiles per square inch than any place in the country. Retirees, in baby blue golf shirts and white cowboy hats act as ushers and have kind words for everyone. Beer vendors and ticket holders act like long lost friends. Old and young share their wisdom about prospects and aging veterans alike. Each stranger’s opinion is listened to attentively. Kids giggle, run, shout and have programs, balls, and jersey’s signed. There’s not a man in uniform who can’t remember what it was like to be 11 years old—hoping and praying that a player like him, will sign his glove or toss him a ball.
All the clichés you have read are true.
It’s especially attractive to me because I give up booze during lent—except over 3,000 feet and out of California.
Spring Training is a “code” for ordering beer on the grass under the sun, with only a slightly guilty conscience. It’s about fathers and sons—daughters and fathers—wives, husbands and families communing together as young men (and slightly older but still “young men”) vie to make it all the way to the show. For the ball players it’s Shakespearean from dawn until dusk. For us it is pure joy. It’s our 7th year, so we think we know the routine. Alas, hubris gets us all. We’ve never been the last weekend. We discover that each day is a sellout. Who’d a thunk it? Normally, we’d buy seats on the grassy knoll (not that one) out in left for 8 bucks apiece. Fortunately, we are able to scam some bleacher seats at $16 per, but elect to sit on the lawn anyway. We shake hands with Dave the Beer man. He’s been peddling Buds out there since we’ve been going. He tells us this is the first good weekend. Like a grower, his livelihood is dependent upon the weather. “Had to leave in the 7th inning twice already—too cold. Cost me $700”, he confides.
As our lawn mates and we down Dave’s cool ones, we discuss the impropriety of Bonds ingesting foreign substances into his body. The irony is not missed. Interestingly, when he is introduced, there are more cheers than boos. The Star Spangled Banner sends chills, as each of us thinks of those in foreign lands whose lives revolve around I.E.D’s, not R.B.I.’s. We are humbled and grateful. Besides a great view of the field, the grass in left provides a plentitude of pulchritude. Underwear is outerwear, and nary a lass doesn’t have a tattoo on her—somewhere. The pre-game music (which used to be 60’s oldies) is now Hip Hop. Not all traditions hold. We have our gloves, hoping for that elusive homer to find our mitts. Our neighbors do likewise. Like St. Helena, Scottsdale Park is a victim of Spring Training’s popularity. Now tickets are hard to come by. Prices have gone up, it’s more formal. Contact between players and kids is less—right field, which used to be all grass, is now a “Charity” section where (I was told) for $65 you can sit under umbrellas, have drinks and watch the game.
No doubt a good cause, but a loss of tradition, none the same. And like here, it’s the traditionalists, locals, and kids who are the victims of Spring Training’s newfound popularity. Sunday, we drive to Peoria, hoping Father Brenkle will concede we’ve fulfilled our obligation, by watching the Padres taken on the Giants. But it was Saturday that summed it all up. As the Giants were sold out, we head to the A’s/Cubs split squad game. Even that is sold out. Not to worry. I ask a stranger if he has tickets and he says, “Are you hear with your boy?” I am, “But he’s 21.” Mike pulls us aside and proceeds to tell us of his son, Steve—whom he lost in 2002. Mike started a foundation. It provides free tickets for fathers and sons, to carry on what he and Steve did. I’m caught. “Can I give you a check?”
“This is not about money. Just e-mail me and tell me what it was like.” “JJ’s too old. Maybe you should give it to a father and littler boy?” “No. Steve chose you.”
He gives us a brochure which reads in part: “Baseball offers a unique environment to strengthen the bond between a parent and child. To Keep Steve’s love of baseball alive we gladly share our tickets with other parents and children. In doing so, we hope that a special memory can be created that can only come from going to a game.”
His friend took a picture. In tears, we took the tickets. Had I half a brain (or half a heart) I would have passed them on to some other father and son—but we were too overwrought—and two overwhelmed. As a father, I know what it is like to watch a son or daughter, catch a foul ball, or get an autograph from a hero. I know what it is like to share it with them—so see how happy their mom is—reveling in their happiness. When we get back, we’ll go to www.stevesdream.com. Sure, we’ll send a check. But no amount of money will ever be able to give back to them, what that family gave to us.