Foundation for a Friend
It was January 2015 and Andrew Schwab ’03 was fresh off of one of the most difficult phone conversations he ever had. The day had started innocently enough with a Facebook message from the brother of Jason Anderson ’03, who had resided in the room across from his freshman year in Brewster Hall. Their relationship had quickly progressed from a fluke of the Syracuse University housing system to a less heightened version of the type of backslapping camaraderie made popular by the buddy movies of the 1980s. In the years after graduation, Schwab, Anderson, and other members of their crew formed freshman year had traveled to SU basketball games together, attended bachelor parties together, served as groomsmen in each other’s weddings, and eventually navigated the pitfalls of adulthood together. “I kind of knew that if I ever needed something, Jason would figure out a way to help me,” Schwab says.
They were close, but that still didn’t explain why Anderson’s brother would reach out with a request for Schwab to contact their mother. Friendship has certain benefits though, and a freedom from the burden of explanation is one of them. Schwab made the call—and learned that Jason Anderson had been killed that morning in a car accident.
The next calls Schwab made were all to family—the one he and Anderson had built for themselves among the Syracuse University Class of 2003: Jennifer Meinen, Jay Morrison, and Tim Caputo. “They were the hardest phone calls I’ve ever had to make,” Schwab says.
Nearly two years later, Jason Anderson has not been forgotten. Alongside Anderson’s family, Schwab, Meinen, Morrison, and Caputo helped build the Jason Anderson Foundation for Youth Sports as a monument to carry on the name and legacy of their friend. “Jason was, to put it mildly, obsessed with sports,” says Schwab, chair of the foundation’s board. Meinen and Caputo are also board members, and Morrison serves as treasurer.
Last spring, the rookie nonprofit organization awarded grants totaling $1,000 each to three youth sports initiatives in Delaware—Dover Little League, the Police Athletic League, and the Junior Football League. “All of a sudden that first grant meant this is a success,” Meinen says. “We did it.”
Prior to his death, Anderson had developed a robust career in athletics, including work with the Syracuse Sky Chiefs, the New Orleans Saints, and Dover Motor Sports. Caputo wants all children to have access to youth sports. He sees it as an opportunity for them to develop the same well-rounded character he saw in his one-time roommate and constant friend. “It was easy to see how that passion, with a bit of competitiveness, made him a tireless worker, a loving father, a devoted husband, and a loyal friend,” Caputo says. “That’s how we remember him and why we thought it was the best way to honor him.”
While the foundation planted its roots in Delaware, where at the time of his death Anderson was living with his wife and young son, Meinen says it’s possible the nonprofit could eventually trickle into other communities. In the meantime, the old gang is back together again, minus one very important member. “I’m proud of what we’ve created and what we hope to accomplish long term,” Caputo says. “But seeing Jason’s name on the check we presented or his likeness on the logo reminds you there’s a hole in your heart you can never replace and you just wish he could be here to share in the joy we’re spreading by helping others.” —Frank Ready
Tim Caputo ’03 (left), Andrew Schwab ’03, and Jay Morrison ’03