The more Steven Paschall read about the Seahawks' players fund, the more it reminded him of a fund of his own. One of the last acts he did before dying of Lymphoma was donate $25,000.
A trip long-planned by his wife found Steven Paschall, who had become a rabid Seahawks fan after moving to the Seattle from Chicago in 1985, forced to watch his favorite team beat Denver in Super Bowl XLVIII from a rental home in New Zealand.
When Seattle’s victory was secured, Paschall ran to the beach and performed the traditional New Zealand Haka dance as a celebratory tribute, unworried that anyone watching might wonder what was going on.
“He was so happy,’’ said his wife, Katy Jo Steward.
Shortly after, when Paschall — who headed up a massage therapy business on Vashon Island — was diagnosed with Lymphoma, it was the Seahawks who helped carry him through his days.
As he battled the disease from his hospital bed, Paschall and Steward developed a morning ritual. She’d bring him a latte and a newspaper and together they would read the newspaper aloud, usually starting with the sports page, and specifically the Seahawks news of the day.
One day last September, they read a story about Seattle players starting an Equality & Justice for All Action Fund, which was created as an avenue, as receiver Doug Baldwin has stated, for putting action to words. It was a platform for the players to show that any protesting was aimed at finding ways to create lasting change.
The more he heard about the fund, the more it resonated with Paschall, who had started a similar foundation following the 2009 death of Steward’s daughter, Kelly Ann Brown.
Brown died at 44 following a long illness, after which Paschall and Steward, who met in 1985 and soon married, created the Kelly Ann Brown foundation.
Kelly, Steward said, “had a knack for reaching out to someone who didn’t feel they fit in. Our intention is to stand with those that are often marginalized or are outsiders, those who have been alienated because of their gender or race or sexual orientation or economic status or politics. Kelly was always alert to those whom others ignored.’’
As such, the foundation “typically gives to nonprofits that might not get tons of attention or press and to causes that help those that are often most forgotten,’’ according to chairman Debra Hannula.
Since 2011, the foundation has given grants to more than 60 individuals and organizations. In 2016, Guide Dogs for the Blind and the Vashon Wilderness Program were among the recipients.
On Nov. 14, at the urging of Paschall, the foundation cut a $25,000 check to the Seahawks’ players fund, which recently announced it had raised roughly $1 million and had found seven organizations to which it will give grants.
“Steve was impressed that the players were being proactive, first by drawing attention to the issue through their demonstrations on the field,’’ Steward said. “The Seahawks have been criticized and maligned for sitting or kneeling during the national anthem. They are accused of being unpatriotic and worse. Steve and the rest of the board felt it was important to stand with them.’’
Two days later, Paschall died at age 62.
A touching letter
Not long after arrived a letter that took Hannula aback: a handwritten note from Baldwin.
Baldwin thanked the board for the contribution, but also for “inspiring others, including myself, to ‘forgive always and love completely.’ ’’
The letter was read at Paschall’s memorial service.
But Hannula says the words will live on much longer.
“We receive thank you notes from the nonprofits we have given to,’’ she said. “Nothing has looked like this. Checks from our foundation come from the Marin Community Foundation (MCF) and in the body of their letter they mention KABF (Kelly Ann Brown Foundation). Many don’t get that and thank the President of MCF instead of KABF. It’s all fine. What Doug Baldwin did was figure out who we are, read our website and get its essence like no one else has. We were stunned and had no idea.’’
Baldwin, approached by a reporter about the letter recently, initially was hesitant to have it made public.
For one, he didn’t want to be the center of the story.
For another, he’s not the only Seahawk who is part of the story.
One of Steve and Katy Jo’s best friends is King County Superior Court Judge Julia Garratt. Garratt was one of the speakers at Paschall’s funeral.
Garratt’s family grew up with that of Jessica Martinez of Bellevue, who in the summer of 2016 married Seahawks cornerback DeShawn Shead.
The families are so close, in fact, that Garratt officiated the wedding of Shead and Martinez.
“We would have wanted no one else,’’ Shead said, then he stops. “It’s like it’s such a small world that these two people were connected in this way.’’
Shead had let Baldwin know of his association with friends of Paschall, and had also reached out to people involved.
But Baldwin did his own research before writing his letter.
“Learning about their story, I felt connected to it,’’ Baldwin said.
To Baldwin and Shead, this is exactly what they hoped would happen with the Players’ Fund — people from all different ages, backgrounds and life statuses coming together in ways they would never have imagined before.
“It was just incredibly heartfelt,’’ Baldwin said of the KABF grant. “Not that the others weren’t. But for Steve to kind of in his last days request that, that that was something he wanted to do, I don’t know. And then their whole family story and their daughter and her values and the things she cared about, it felt right and I felt compelled to tell them how grateful we were for their support.’’
Paschall’s death notice asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made in his name to the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance or the Seahawks’ players fund.