MARQUETTE, Mich. (BVM) — During the spring, summer and now fall of 2020, there has been significant public discourse surrounding the return of sports at all levels. The value of sports takes many forms: physical fitness, a pastime, enhancing community and discipline are among the benefits.
But perhaps its greatest societal contribution is serving as a conduit for charitable pursuits. One such example resides in Marquette, Mich., where the new Beacon House is being constructed adjacent to the new Upper Peninsula Health System – Marquette.
What is the Beacon House and what role did sports play in making the new facility a reality?
On a winter day in 1989, a prominent Marquette cardiologist drove through the hospital parking lot and saw one of his patients in a pickup truck. The man was wrapped in a sleeping bag, shaving his face in the side view mirror.
Upon further investigation, it was discovered that this was not a unique situation. It appeared that many types of medical patients seeking specialty medical care from outside the area would frequently sleep in their cars, bathe in public restrooms and find a snack in hospital coffee lounges.
Soon thereafter, physicians and volunteers would come together to create a plan to convert a small house next to the hospital for these types of patients, offering overnight accommodations at whatever donation level the patient could afford. Thus, the first “Beacon House” in Marquette — a four-bedroom home — was launched in 1990.
Beacon House has since played a crucial role in providing access to specialty medical care for families in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. From the start, the mission has been to provide compassionate and supportive services with a safe and affordable place to stay for patients, families, loved ones and caregivers in times of medical crisis when home is too far away.
In 1994, a second home was added to accommodate more guests. By 2002, the hospital announced it would be demolishing the homes. The volunteer group created a non-profit organization with a diverse board and with a bank loan, purchased a small hotel near the hospital to continue its mission.
In 2013, it expanded its services to include managing 21 beds in the hospital. A year later, the hospital was sold to a for-profit organization who announced they would be building a new hospital in a different section of town, closing the old hospital once it was built.
They also announced the new hospital would not have space for hospitality rooms. The Beacon House board then began mapping out a strategy to sell the Beacon House building and launch a capital campaign to build a new house next to the new hospital.
A major portion of the capital campaign can be traced back to the fundraising power of sports. Iron Mountain native and football icon, Steve Mariucci, became involved in the Beacon House cause in 2002 after his family stayed there during his mother’s illness. He became intimately familiar with the cause and has worked with the organization in multiple capacities since.
Now in the fourth decade of his football career, Mariucci is a living legend in the Upper Peninsula. He began playing on the gridiron at Iron Mountain High School and continued in college at Northern Michigan University, where he was a three-time Division II All-American quarterback. As a sophomore in 1975, Mariucci led the Wildcats to the DII national championship.
But it was as a coach where he made his mark on the national stage.
Mariucci began coaching at Northern Michigan and later moved on to prestigious college programs like the University of Southern California, and the University of California. In 1992, Mariucci was NFL-bound, becoming the quarterback coach for the Green Bay Packers — tutoring a young Brett Favre.
In 1997, Mariucci became the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, leading them to four playoff berths in six seasons. Mariucci then returned to his home state to coach the Detroit Lions for three seasons.
Mariucci has remained on the national scene as a broadcaster, currently as an analyst for the NFL Network.
“The best friend Beacon House has is Steve Mariucci,” Mary Tavernini, CEO of Hospitality House of Upper Peninsula, said. “His impeccable reputation in the UP and national celebrity has created awareness. But he has also used personal wealth and time to spearhead our capital campaign, right down to providing input on the blueprint. It is impossible to be anything but the best when you have someone like Steve Mariucci on your team.”
After the hospital funding ended, the major fundraiser to keep the doors open for the Beacon House was the UP Celebrity Golf Classic with Steve Mariucci. The lure of golf, community service and friendship raised over $600,000 during the event’s seven-year run.
Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo, NFL stars like Brian Urlacher, Mason Crosby, Robert Brooks, and Jim McMahon, and NBA greats such as Rick Mahorn and Bill Laimbeer are among the dozens of celebrities who participated.
Relationships formed at the golf event helped build the basis for the Legacy of Love capital campaign, culminating with the 2020 ground-breaking of the new Beacon House — projected to open by Christmas 2021.