Boys Hope Girls Hope (BHGH) of Illinois Executive Board Chairman Jamie Baisley stood in a backyard in Evanston not too long ago, observing sheer joy emanating from teenagers and their proud parents. Along with a happy teardrop or two. The scene unfolded at a BHGH graduation party. “Many of the students—scholars, we call them—start as timid, immature freshmen in our program,” says the 44-year-old Baisley, who grew up in Glencoe and graduated from Loyola Academy (Class of ’92). “But they’re often completely different people as seniors; they’re confident, outgoing, much more mature, excited about the future.” He adds, “The parents of the scholars get emotional at a gathering like that. Their expressions say, ‘Wow, this works.’” This—or BHGH—helps academically capable and motivated children-in-need to meet their full potential by providing value-centered, family-like homes, opportunities, and education through college. Jesuit priest Fr. Paul Sheridan founded the organization in 1977 with a noble-spirited goal in mind: to help children break the cycle of poverty.
BHGH is a privately funded, multi-denominational nonprofit today, operating in 16 U.S. cities and in Guatemala, Brazil, Mexico, and Peru. Children generally enter the program between the ages of 12 and 14, reside in nurturing living quarters, and attend first-rate elementary and secondary schools. Some 40 scholars are transforming their lives under the guidance of BHGH of Illinois leaders and volunteers in the 2018-19 academic year. “Our approach is a holistic one,” says Baisley, who served as a BHGH of Illinois board member for 10 years and fulfilled executive committee duties before becoming chairman. “Our scholars are athletes and interested in sciences and the arts and other subjects, and we’re arranging internships and job interviews for them, as well as walking them through the college-application process. We’re also helping them develop life skills. Meeting the needs of the whole person—that’s what Boys Hope Girls Hope is all about,” explains the West Loop resident and founder/managing director of Frontage Search Partners, a Chicago-based boutique search firm that provides recruitment for clients in a variety of industries.
“I was fortunate, growing up in a family like mine and getting the opportunity to go to Loyola Academy and develop with the help of the school’s wonderful teachers and coaches,” says Baisley, who has four sisters and two brothers and whose parents, Jim and Barbara, live in Wilmette. A safety on Loyola Academy’s football team, Baisley played middle linebacker and went on to major in business at Indiana University, where he suited up as a captain for the IU Hoosiers and then played professionally in the NFL, NFL Europe, and XFL leagues. He won a pair of World Bowl championship rings (1998, 2000) with the Dusseldorf, Germany-based Rhein Fire of NFL Europe.
Two of the men who had the most influence on Baisley at Loyola Academy were John O’Loughlin and the late John Hoerster (head varsity football coach). O’Loughlin taught history and was Baisley’s sophomore basketball coach. Baisley, a small forward and co-captain, hit jumpers and rebounded and hustled for O’Loughlin’s squad in the winter of 1989-90. “Coach O was quiet, and you never wanted to let him down, just like you’d never want to let your father down,” Baisley says. “He was well-respected by all, a man who instilled important values in me—values like hard work, determination. He had a way with athletes, had that ability to motivate everybody around him.”
Baisley takes these values with him in pursuing his philanthropic work and is grateful that the BHGH scholars also have access to mentors at Loyola Academy like he did and at Regina Dominican (their partner school for the girls). Baisley offered his time and energy for a number of different mentoring programs prior to joining the BHGH of Illinois board. Eight years ago, he was the founding Chairman of the Loyola Academy Junior Board called the President’s Leadership Council. Among his many other philanthropic contributions, today he continues to serve on the Big Shoulders Fund Chairman’s Advisory Council as well as the Concussion Legacy Foundation advisory board of Chicago.
The BHGH scholars are thrilled to have Baisley’s continued support and we can’t wait to see where his leadership takes them.
For more information and to register for the Boys Hope Girls Hope of Illinois Mardi Gras Evening of Hope Gala, please visit boyshopegirlshope.org/Illinois.