Soccer friends team up
When Krzystof "Krys" Baczmaga dropped to his knees on the soccer field at James Island's Bayview Park on Sunday, his coach thought he had tripped. Moments later, the 40-year-old was dead from a heart attack.
News of his death spread throughout the local soccer community in gut-wrenching e-mails and by word of mouth. Attention quickly turned to Baczmaga's wife and two children, ages 11 and 2.
Zaneta Baczmaga has learned how many lives her husband touched. She said it would be impossible to get through this without her husband's soccer friends.
On Monday, two soccer players — one a financial adviser — met with Zaneta Baczmaga to determine her family's financial needs. They set up a memorial fund to help with living expenses, to ensure the children's education is taken care of and to possibly pay for the funeral. Krys Baczmaga, a computer technician, did not have life insurance.
On Thursday, more than 30 members of various soccer leagues met to pool ideas for fundraisers and to organize their efforts.
In addition, Charleston United Soccer Club, a program for children, has established a scholarship fund to honor Krys Baczmaga's name and love of the game, said Director of Coaching Andy Grist, a teammate of Krys Baczmaga's who helped administer CPR after he collapsed. The scholarship will benefit children of single parents in need of financial assistance. The Baczmagas' 11-year-old son, Daniel, will be the first beneficiary.
Krys Baczmaga's team, Atlanticville Homes, was winning by three goals when he stopped running and knelt on the ground. Three minutes remained in the match.
Laurie Yarbrough, the city of Charleston's director of recreation, said no one else has died while participating in a league event in at least the 12 years she's been with the city. "We were all very saddened by the loss," Yarbrough said. "Certainly our thoughts go out to the family."
Zaneta Baczmaga said her phone has rung constantly this week with people checking on her and offering condolences. "He invested in people. And it's just coming back."
The couple, natives of Poland, met in elementary school, and in their mid-20s married on a mountaintop. Recalling it brings her to tears. "If you lose your husband, your lover and your best friend, what else is important?"
She is most concerned with how she will bring up the children without their father. Two-year-old Kathryn has been asking if her daddy went to work, and talking to pictures Zaneta Baczmaga displayed around their West Ashley home. Daniel is staying busy with soccer, the sport his father played since he could walk.