O's to establish "Shannon's Fund"
$50,000 check will be presented prior to Sunday's game
BALTIMORE -- On the wrist of his left arm, Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts wears a baseball seam bracelet in the Orioles traditional colors of orange and black. But this bracelet is nothing close to a fashion statement.
Roberts wears the bracelet, created by him, to honor the memory of Shannon Obaker, the Orioles' Director of Community Outreach who passed away in January 2007 at age 29 after a year-long battle with cancer.
Obaker is remembered by those who knew her as a passionate person with an almost unmatched willingness to help those in need. Sunday, the Orioles will take their first step in perpetuating that legacy as they, along with Obaker's family, present a check for $50,000 to the University of Maryland Medical Center, establishing an endowment in her name, "Shannon's Fund."
"We still can't even get over the fact that it happened and the way it did," said Kristen Schultz, the Orioles Director of Promotions and Community Outreach, who worked with Obaker for three years. "She was just such a wonderful person. ... I don't think there's a day that goes by that we don't think about her.
"To see it full circle is just amazing. I'm so glad that the club came together. With Brian's effort, our staff and our fans came together to do this in her honor because she's done so much for the club as well as the community. The number of sick children that she's brought smiles to their faces was incredible and for us to be able to do something in her name was an honor for us."
The fund will provide financial assistance to hospital patients and their families to help cover the unexpected costs that come with illnesses and treatments, including hospital parking, housing, food costs and household bills.
Much of the money for the endowment was raised through the sale of Roberts' bracelets, the second version the second baseman has made. The first installment of the bracelets, the proceeds of which went to the University of Maryland Hospital for Children, did not have the "S.O." that the current version features, in memory of Obaker. Additional funds were raised through the memorabilia sale at Orioles FanFest and donations from the Orioles charitable foundation.
"Shannon and I worked together a lot with the hospital and she had been a great help to me in getting my foundation started," Roberts said. "I just felt like there was something that I could do, just a small token of my appreciation for what she'd done for me and the friendship that we had."
"It helps you realize that life's so short," Roberts added. "None of us are promised tomorrow and when I look down at my bracelet or I see someone else with one on it just kind of puts all that in perspective. I think about her, I think about the kids at the hospital, and you hope that it makes you appreciate life today and it certainly helps me appreciate the time that I had with her."
The pregame ceremony formally establishing the endowment in Obaker's name will likely be an emotional one for those who knew her, but the idea that her name will be carried on through an organization she worked so hard for is likely a small consolation for her friends and family.
"It's definitely bitter sweet because obviously if she hadn't passed we wouldn't be doing it and I'd rather be doing that," Schultz said. "I think it will really mean a lot once we see the families that are actually affected. ... It's still a work in progress and it's not going to be done with this year, it's going to be years and years more of additional fundraising to help more families. There's a lot more hard work out there for all of us, but she would have done the same thing."
Schultz said that although Obaker would be proud that the Orioles have taken up a cause that was so important to her, she'd likely be uncomfortable with all the attention being garnered by her name.
"She would be completely embarrassed," Schultz said. "She would be shying away, she would be climbing in a hole, she would be maybe even a little upset and that was something we all took into consideration -- the way she would react to this because she would absolutely hate this attention.
"She was never one to be in front of the camera or be in the spotlight or do anything for any type of recognition. She was always shying away from that, letting other people get that limelight and that's why she did her job so well. She would not be very happy with us right now, but knowing that we are helping families I think would make her more at ease."
Donations can still be made to Shannon's Fund throughout the season. Those wishing to contribute should make checks payable to Orioles Charitable Foundation and send them to:
c/o Orioles Charitable Foundation
333 West Camden Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
Amanda Comak is an associate reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.