Man of the Year Honoree Committed to Giving Back

April 5, 2012,, By Bobby Cherry Staff Writer

Jim Bouchard
Photo: Jim Bouchard
Photo by File

From youth sports in the Sewickley Valley to helping save lives in Haiti, Jim Bouchard is focused on making a difference in the world — no matter how big or small.

“If we have something and we’re lucky enough to get it, then we need to share it,” said Bouchard, founder and CEO of Sewickley-based Esmark Inc., and the 2011 Sewickley Herald Man of the Year.

Bouchard’s drive to give back stems from his childhood, he says.

“It stemmed from my mom,” he said. “My dad liked making the money and keeping it. My mom liked making the money and giving it away.”

“When Esmark got successful and got bigger, we were more fortunate to give to others.”

In 2008, he donated $1 million toward the Quaker Valley Recreation Association’s efforts to renovate the athletic fields at Bell Acres.

With the donation, the site now is known as The Legacy Fields at Bouchard Family Park, which, when completed, will have numerous athletic fields for a variety of sports.

Bouchard’s company also is the title sponsor of the feature ball field at the park — Esmark Field, complete with professional grade materials that rival PNC Park and Heinz Field.

A $60,000 donation to the Quaker Valley School District is helping to offer student-athletes a weight room at the high school.

Donations to St. James Catholic School included helping to pay for a portion of the gym floor and a computer center.

“What we’ve tried to do was give to all of the schools,” Bouchard said.

“I believe we should have a strong private school in Sewickley Academy. We should have a strong public school in Quaker Valley. We should have a great Catholic school in this community with St. James. Those are what’s going to continue to drive people to this community.”

“So we try to give where we can for the greater whole. All three schools really have to flourish to build a better Sewickley.”

As a child, Bouchard spent his days playing baseball, football and basketball at the community field in his hometown near Chicago.

The discipline he learned while playing those sports and the friendships he forged with his teammates have lasted a lifetime.

“I was affected as a child in having a community around me,” he said.

“What I learned in Hindsdale in my little town, I’ve brought here.”

Bouchard, who was the youngest inductee into Hindsdale Central High School athletic department’s hall of fame, has passed on his love of sports to his own children. Natalie played soccer and lacrosse at Quaker Valley. Clayton plays hockey and baseball, and Aubrey plays soccer

He recalled the days of the McDonald’s corporation’s sponsorship of free swimming in Hindsdale.

“After you were done swimming, they gave you a free hamburger, fry and Coke,” he said. “So we went from swimming to McDonald’s.”

“Guys like me, I swam, and within six months they knew I wasn’t a swimmer. But they found talent elsewhere.”

That process is what Bouchard wants to create in the Sewickley community.

“So what I’m trying to do here at the soccer level, at the lacrosse level and with some of the other sports we contribute to is get that foundation set,” he said.

“That’s why you’re going to have this little high school and still have great athletic programs.”

“There’s a philosphy and a strategy to why we dedicate our funds into those type of programs. Most people don’t know that, but there is a method to our madness.”

And then there’s Haiti.

As he was watching events of the January 2010 earthquake unfold, Bouchard said he wanted to help.

“You could just tell that the whole place had basically imploded,” he said of the natural disaster. “I kept thinking that this was going to be far worse than anybody ever could imagine.”

With the help of Sewickley area doctors and Pittsburgh-based health organizations, other nonprofits and hundreds of volunteers, Bouchard led one of the biggest private relief efforts to earthquake-torn Haiti.

Crews delivered more than $15 million in medicine and supplies.

While dispersing supplies, Bouchard said he learned of nearly 100 orphans who needed transported to the United States.

“We’re sitting at the airport waiting to come back, and literally, there are all of these orphans sitting in cages,” he said.

“These kids were waiting to leave.”

Calls came from Sen. John McCain’s staff and others for Bouchard to help transport the children to Orlando.

“We had 104 orphans on the trip, and they all had families waiting for them,” he said.

Bouchard recalled that experience as “one of the single most important experiences in my life.”

Whether it is attending his son’s hockey games, overseeing youth initiatives or running a global company, Bouchard seemingly finds time to do it all.

“With the right resources and help, I know that if I’m doing something, it’s going to get done,” he said. “We have a great management team that can run Esmark. It helps me pick my spots where I can focus on something.”

Bouchard’s ability to give back helps set the foundation of what he called the circle of life.

“If you set that foundation right, the kids coming out of the Sewickley community will be leaders,” he said.

“The foundation needs to start at the youth level, and we need to be teaching leadership skills at the youth level. Those skills — if the proper foundation is set — will create leaders. So when the kids come out of Sewickley, they’re going to come out of one of three good schools, and they’re going to be a leader in high school and then college, and if that’s the case, they’re going to give back to their community.”