Steve Hara in his office at Star Nissan
While many Chicagoans were glued to the NHL playoffs hoping that the Blackhawks would bring a huge dose of home-town pride to the Windy City with a certain little trophy called the Stanley Cup, Star Nissan’s GM Steve Hara watched for even more personal reasons.
“It started about 40 years ago,” said Steve. “I became friends and neighbors with a guy named Bob Murray. He played for the Blackhawks 17 years and later became their general manager,” he continued.
Because of this friendship, when Steve isn’t on the showroom floor at Star Nissan, it’s quite possible that he’s hanging out with the Blackhawks who according to him are “a great group of guys” among which little or no ego can be detected. And after working with many different professional sports organizations, Steve believes that nesting with the Hawks is the best place for him and his charity, The Special Kids Network.
Started in 1999, The Special Kids Network was designed as an independent non-profit organization providing funding for programs relative to children and young adults with special needs via money raised from various events throughout the year. The Special Kids Network was founded by Chad and Debbie Coe who wanted to make a difference in the lives of children with special needs after seeing family members struggle with developmental disabilities.
“There’s always been a charitable aspect to my life and I got Bob involved with that early on. That relationship evolved into many other relationships with guys he played with and guys he managed and they trusted and believed in me. So when I got involved with The Special Kid’s Network, they were willing to support me and the charity,” he said with a smile.
Family life, a full-time job and a charity that demands countless hours of tending to. Not many people could muster up the dedication to juggle all three, but Steve manages to balance each detail in his life with blade-like precision and most importantly: he loves every bit of it.
“The people that I get to meet. The people that I work with. Even though we do the same thing every day, who we do it with changes and that’s that fun part. So you’re constantly meeting people from every walk of life because we’re selling cars $1,000 and we sell cars for $100,000,” Steve says of his job at Star Nissan.
After working at the Touhy Avenue dealership in Niles, Illinois for over 40 years, Steve still gets excited to go to work each day and finds his drive for life by helping people weather it’s on the lot or at his charity events for The Special Kid’s Network
Today, The Special Kid’s Network is a thriving organization with several renowned events such as the Annual Celebrity Golf Tournament. July 22, 2013, marks the golfing tournament’s 14th and hopefully biggest year. A huge hit in the community, the tournament allows celebrities to tee off with or against non-celebrities, and making the event this year even bigger, some Blackhawks will surely be in attendance.
“This part of my charity is a celebrity event and most of the celebrities are hockey people: hockey players, general managers, former players, coaches. And we get a lot of help and support from the Blackhawks”, said Steve about the upcoming event.
Sponsored by the Morris Silverman Family at Twin Orchard Country Club in Long Grove, IL. The main beneficiary for this year’s event is the recreational programs of Keshet which serves children and young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In the past, the event has featured many celebrities and athletes such as Gabe Garimi, Joe Girardi, Jeremy Roenick and actor Chris Williams.
For Steve, being able to mix his personal passion for hockey (yes, he’s a coach too) while helping people through his non-profit charity organization is a blessing he still can’t get over.
“I was fortunate enough to go to many games,” he said with a twinkle in his eye. And with each goal the Hawks scored during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, like a proud father Steve cheered for the future of his charity, the future of hockey and future of Chicago.
“They’ve created an incredible environment; it was not that many years ago when the building was not a third full. And I was there then, and I am there now when it’s overflowed. The vibe is electric and the building shakes and it’s a phenomenal thing to see and experience,” he said.
Sitting in his Star Nissan office decked with photos of his history with the Blackhawks, anyone who visits it can see just how close he is to them, and just how close they are to him.
“It’s great to be proud of something; it’s great to be proud of your hometown team”, he said. And as proud as he of both, Steve is also proud of his dealership.
Memories with the Hawks deck his walls
“I’ve been very fortunate that my reputation and the reputation of our dealership is held in very high regards at The United Center so I do a lot of business with The Bulls and the Blackhawks,” he said with pride.
Now, even with this incredible hockey season behind him, Steve still has many more events to look forward to as Vice President for The Special Kid’s Network. And with the help of his champion Hawks these future events will undoubtedly surpass his own goals.
Upcoming events include the Texas Hold ‘Em Tournament which was most recently held last October in Northfield, Illinois. The first place even winner received a $10,000 buy-in to the Main Event at the World Series of Poker. The tournament attracted 250 participants and raised $135,000. The next poker event is tentatively being scheduled for early 2014 and will soon be announced via their website.
For a complete listing of other events like their charity bowling tournament and for more info on the organization or to make a charitable donation, click on the link below: http://www.specialkidsnetwork.org/
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