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Characters Unite Award Winners

Steve Bandura

COMCAST
PHILADELPHIA, PA
COACH AND RECREATION LEADER, PHILADELPHIA DEPARTMENT OF PARKS & RECREATION DIRECTOR, PHILADELPHIA YOUTH ORGANIZATION

In 1989, Steve Bandura began as a volunteer at the Marian Anderson Recreation Center in South Philadelphia. A few years later, he left the business world to dedicate his life to providing athletic and educational opportunities to inner city boys and girls.

In 1993, Steve founded the Jackie Robinson Baseball League. The League introduces baseball, and the history of baseball in the African American community, to hundreds of young boys and girls each year and gives them the opportunity to learn and play the game.

In 1995, with some of the more talented players from the Jackie Robinson League, Steve founded the Anderson Monarchs travel sports program, with the idea of giving his inner city kids the same opportunities to play and develop as their counterparts in the suburbs – an attempt to "level the playing field" for less fortunate kids. Since then, the Monarchs, competing in the city’s top baseball, soccer, and basketball leagues, have enjoyed unprecedented success. They’ve developed an outstanding reputation as one of the most talented and disciplined clubs in the Philadelphia area, capturing numerous city championships in all three sports.

More importantly, as the only predominantly African American club in the region’s top leagues and tournaments, the Monarchs carry on the legacy of Jackie Robinson by shattering stereotypes and breaking down barriers wherever they compete, showing what’s possible when inner city kids are given opportunities to succeed.

In 1998, Steve also founded the Philadelphia Stars Baseball Club, comprised of five white, five Latino, and five African American 8 year-old players from many different neighborhoods across the city. The idea was to bring the players together on common ground – the baseball diamond – and expose them to kids from other races and cultures. The project was a huge success. The original Stars’ players, now in their early 20s, remain the best of friends and Consider each other as "family."

Education is the number one priority in Steve’s programs. He works hard to help his players gain admittance to the best private schools in the region. Many of Steve’s players have gone on to compete at the college level and several have gone on to play professionally. In athletics and education, Steve continues to challenge his players, believing strongly that, "Nobody rises to low expectations."