At 15-years-old Stephen Breen already knew that he was dying of cancer when his parents came to him with the idea of starting a foundation to perpetuate his memory and left it up to him to decide what it would accomplish, according to Jim Breen, Stephens father.
Stephen had been diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a very rare form of bone cancer, when he was 13-years-old and less than 16 months later he was in the final stages of his life.
On a white-board in his parent’s kitchen, Stephen scribbled ideas for his foundation eventually deciding that he wanted it to accomplish two things; to help students afford the cost of going to catholic school and to help children suffering from cancer; and the Stephen Breen Memorial Foundation was born.
Stephen was a former student at Saint Andrew Catholic School and after his death in 2004 Saint Andrew renamed their annual basketball tournament the Stephen Breen Wildcat Basketball Challenge, benefiting all proceeds to Stephen’s memorial foundation, according to Mike Irwin, Sports Coordinator at Saint Andrew.
The basketball tournament was originally established at Saint Andrew in 2001 as a competition for 6th and 7th graders within the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth. Stephen, who was a graduate of Saint Andrew, played in this tournament when he was in middle school.
More than eight years after Stephen’s death, the Stephen Breen Wildcat Basketball Challenge continues and has raised a total of more than $50,000 for Stephen’s foundation. “It benefits so many kids from a financial standpoint,” said Charles Llewellyn, principal of Saint Andrew.
The basketball challenge is a two-week-long double elimination tournament open to all schools in the Diocese of Fort Worth for participation. This year 31 teams are registered to play. The games began Feb 25 and will be held at Saint Andrew though March 9.
The games are open to the general public with the purchase of $1 admission tickets or a tournament T-shirt. Game times vary.
Since its inception the Stephen Breen Memorial Foundation has been providing financial assistance to students throughout the Diocese of Fort Worth and to children being treated for cancer at Cook Children’s Hospital, the same hospital that treated Stephen years ago
The foundation has provided more than $500,000 in financial assistance to students in the Diocese of Fort Worth impacting the lives of over 700 students from 400 different families, according to the Stephen Breen Memorial Foundation website.
Also, according to the foundation’s website, where cancer aid is concerned the foundation works aims to lessen the depth and frequency of the hardships faced by children being treated for cancer at Cook Children’s Hospital and their families.
“Our focus with cancer is doing anything and everything that we can to help the kids. If it can brighten their day, or make their week, or give them a month of enjoyment then that’s what we try to do,” said Jim Breen.
Stephen would be 24 years old now, and in the time since his death his family and friends have worked to preserve his memory through the foundation’s continuing impact.
“I had the hope and dream that we would raise at least raise $1 million and we have certainly raised that and more,” said Jim Breen. “What I didn't realize was that it would benefit so many people, it really does help people in a very meaningful way, it does alter their lives.”
Other events held throughout the year to benefit the Stephen Breen Memorial Foundation include, the Swing “Fore” Stephen Golf Tournament, Spirit Games at Nolan Catholic High School, and the Giving Wings Appreciation Dinner.