[btx_image image_id=”1204″ link=”/” position=”overlapright” size=”full”][/btx_image]Ripken Sr. Foundation carries on legacy

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BALTIMORE — Cal Ripken Sr. fully embraced the role of coach. Not just in baseball, but in life.

Ripken was a natural born leader, teaching the importance of a strong work ethic, responsibility and healthy living in the Major Leaguers he managed during his 37-year run in the Orioles’ organization, and the youth he mentored following his career in the pros.

Though he passed away in 1999, his legacy lives on through his wife, Vi, and sons Cal Jr. and Bill, who created the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation in 2001 in his honor.

The Foundation, in conjunction with the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association, hosted its 14th annual Aspire Gala at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront on Friday night to raise money to help support the “programming and initiatives for at-risk youth and underserved communities across the United States.”

“What we’re trying to do is carry on [Cal’s] legacy, and carry on what he believes so strongly in,” Salem said.

Hall of Famers Andre Dawson, Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage, Fergie Jenkins and Jim Rice were among the 800 attendees at the event, which honored Baltimore Ravens legend Jonathan Ogden, former Maryland Terrapins coach Gary Williams and U.S. Marshal Johnny L. Hughes.

“These guys are really passionate about making a difference and mentoring people, and keeping people on the right track,” Salem said.

The Aspire Gala raised more than $3 million last year, and is expected to raise even more in 2018. It is one of the greatest one-day fundraising events in Maryland, according to the Foundation.

“This year we’ll raise more money than we’ve ever raised before,” Salem said. “All the money goes to reaching these kids in Baltimore, and across the country. So, knowing that it’s going to help us at least for the next year and build momentum into the future is really wonderful.”

Since its inception 17 years ago, the Foundation has joined forces with “hundreds of youth and law enforcement agencies” to educate and improve the lives of children throughout the country. The organization has also constructed 74 Youth Development Parks since 2009, creating safe recreational facilities for more than 460,000 kids each year.

In addition, there are 14 fields in the development phase nationwide; two are nearly complete in the greater Baltimore area.

A pair of new program initiatives launched over the past year — STEM Initiative and I’m GREAT (Girls Respecting Each Other and Themselves) — will help the foundation continue to better the lives of children in need.

In 2017 the Ripken Sr. Foundation opened 10 STEM Centers throughout the U.S, all of which are supplied with the necessary resources to teach enjoyable and engaging programs to more than 1,600 at-risk children.

I’m GREAT is expected to implement curriculums at three North Carolina sites to make a positive impact on teenage girls and help them comprehend the decisions they make, and how they can affect their lives as they grow older.

Of everything the foundation in honor of Cal Sr. has accomplished, Salem said, “It’s all about carrying on his legacy.”

Oliver Macklin is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter at @basebollie.