A local organization is aiming to continue its legacy of encouraging youth development through extra-curricular activities while continuing the legacy of its namesake.
The Mason Foundation, named after Bryce Jesse “B.J.” Mason, awards youth scholarships to local children in both the spring and fall, as well as annually to a member of the Westerville Warcats high school hockey club team who best personifies Mason’s character.
Mason was a graduate of Westerville South High School and was attending Columbus State Community College when he was killed in a car accident on Oct. 24, 1998. Mason’s sister, Brooke Diedrich, remembers her brother as a “fun-loving guy” who was always willing to help.
“He would do anything for another person. I think that’s a trait that just kind of runs through the family. … He would be there for you if you needed him,” Diedrich said.
Mason was also a hockey enthusiast, and each of his brothers played for the Warcats, meaning their parents were quite involved in the program.
In his memory, the Warcats established the annual Mason Award and awarded the scholarship for the first time the following spring in 1999 to the player who most embodied Mason’s dedication and love for the game of hockey. In 2013, the Warcats Board of Trustees voted to retire Mason’s jersey, an honor that sparked the creation of the Mason Foundation to continue honoring Mason by supporting the local youth.
After securing adequate funding to undergo the process, the foundation was established as an official nonprofit organization the following year on Nov. 19, 2014.
Diedrich said of the foundation’s mission, “Children are very important to our family. It wouldn’t be unusual for our parents to pay for another child’s fees on the Warcats because something happened and maybe their lives were in upheaval, and they didn’t know if they would be able to participate.
“Our parents knew how critical and important those experiences were, and trust me, it wasn’t because we had the extra money. It was just one of those things that made sense, and that’s how the roots of the foundation developed.”
Now, the foundation is hoping to ramp up its efforts to impact the local youth by bringing more attention to its mission, as well as the funds available to be awarded each year.
“It’s been kind of a slow start for us. … We’ve really been trying to get our name and information out there and let people know that we have these funds available,” Diedrich told The Gazette.
Diedrich said there are no set criteria for who can apply for the available scholarships, and in a time when it’s increasingly expensive to participate in programs, she hopes the foundation can help keep kids engaged with their passions.
“We don’t ask financial questions to parents,” she said. “The whole idea behind it is we just want to be able to help out kids who may be struggling, or their parents might be struggling to get their kids into activities and doing some different things because it’s really critical to their development and keeping them going on the right path and being productive members of society.”
Diedrich added the applicants don’t have to be involved in only sports as the scholarships can be awarded for programs involving music, art, and other interests. “We want to help people, and that’s what it’s all about at the end of the day,” she said.
As for what she believes her brother would think of the work his namesake foundation is doing for local children, Diedrich said, “I think he would feel truly honored by it. It speaks to who he was as a person, and it’s a great legacy to be able to remember him by. Every year, we get a little more and a little more. Someday, we hope to be helping thousands of children. … We feel very blessed to be able to continue doing this and be able to remember him in such a positive way. It’s helped so many kids, and it just fits with everything our family values.”
To learn more about Mason’s story, the foundation, and its available scholarships, visit its website at www.themasonfoundation.org.