Steve McElvene, aka Big Steve, was and still is a beloved member of the University of Dayton Flyer basketball community.
Steve made his mark both on and off the court with his big play and even bigger personality. He made his way into the record books by blocking more shots in a season than any player before him. His mother, Jannel, describes him as a constant helper who went out of his way for others, and someone who “always wanted to make your day brighter”.
Sadly, just two months after the 2016 season, Steve’s life was cut far too short. He passed away from previously undiagnosed cardiomyopathy.
During a video presentation at the January 6 University of Dayton men’s basketball game, Jannel shared that Steve wanted to be an organ, eye and tissue donor. After the 2016 school year, he went home to Fort Wayne, Indiana for a quick summer break before basketball workouts started up again. Steve lost his drivers license, so on the day before he passed away, he went to the BMV with Jannel to get a new one. Steve said “yes” to saving lives through organ, eye and tissue donation.
While Steve’s death was a tragic end to a vibrant life, his decision to register as a donor turned that ending into a new beginning. Through Steve’s selfless decision, he lives on in the more than 75 people who received his gifts of tissue donation!
During the video presentation, the crowd was amazed to hear about the benefits of tissue donation — life-saving skin grafts for burn victims, bone grafts that prevent amputation, tendons that repair mobility and could even help someone get back on the basketball court, and more. It was clear that even in his death, Steve made a tangible, life-changing impact in the lives of so many others.
On New Year’s Day, Steve’s family was in Pasadena, California for the Rose Parade, where Steve and his life-saving legacy were honored through a floragraph on the Donate Life Float.
After spending time with Steve’s family, it was easy to see how proud they are of him. They had not been back to the University of Dayton Arena since Steve was a player there. They knew that Steve was loved, but being able to feel that love from 13,000 fans through a standing ovation was truly inspirational.
As the video presentation concluded, the University of Dayton had one more surprise in store for Steve’s family. The basketball team has titled its Defensive Player of the Year Award after Steve. Through that honor, the legacy he left through tissue donation and so much more, Steve will always be remembered and loved in the Dayton community and beyond.
Thank you to the University of Dayton for allowing Life Connection of Ohio, Community Tissue Services and Lions Eye Bank of West Central Ohio to honor Steve in a big way.