Family ties make event slam dunk


Special to the Advocate

MEMPHIS — He’s cool under pressure. He’s sharp, driven. He’s savvy, verbal and very direct. He’s the ultimate businessman. And he has served Industrial Developments International, Inc. (IDI) very well for many years. He retired in December 2004. 

But don’t let Steve Nelson fool you. He has a soft side that he keeps well-hidden from the business world. He’s gentle, caring. He’s soft-spoken and humble. One can see his soft side emerge whenever he talks about his family and the nonprofit organization that is very dear to his heart – The Baddour Center. 

It’s at IDI’s annual HoopFest that you see the ultimate businessman and his soft side merge. 

IDI, one of the top industrial developers in the nation, has hosted the three-on-three basketball tournament benefiting The Baddour Center for the past 15 years. Nelson founded the event at IDI’s Memphis facility. 

The Baddour Center is a model residential community for adults with mild and moderate intellectual disabilities located in Senatobia, Miss. 

It all started when Nelson’s son, Erik, a resident of The Baddour Center, was bragging to him about the center’s basketball team. 

“I told Erik we (staff at IDI) could beat their team,” Nelson said, referring to a joke between the two. “So we set up a game and brought our wives along to cheer us on.”

When game time was near, Nelson said, the IDI team gathered around to plot strategy for the game. “I told them we had to take it easy on Erik’s team,” Nelson said with grin, “and not to beat them by too much.” 

But all of the planning and strategy didn’t help. By halftime, the score was 25 – 2, and IDI had the 2. “Our guys were exhausted,” Nelson said with a laugh. “We couldn’t believe how good they were.” 

Even though Nelson wouldn’t divulge the final score, it’s safe to say that Erik’s team won the game, hands down. 

Since that initial game, the event has become an annual challenge, one that is anticipated by both the IDI and Baddour teams. 

Nelson said IDI invites other companies to compete in the event in which two to four Baddour teams play, as well as two teams from IDI. HoopFest raises about $30,000 annually for The Baddour Center. IDI’s Annual HoopFest is held every spring, at the Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis.  

When Steve Nelson, senior vice president of the Central Region of IDI, retired from the company a year and a half ago, his son, Kurt Nelson, was named as his replacement. Kurt, IDI’s vice president/regional development officer, also took on the responsibility of continuing the fundraising event. 

“Like so many brothers, Kurt and Erik have a close relationship,” Steve Nelson said. “Kurt is dedicated to continuing HoopFest.”  

Even though he’s now retired from IDI, Steve Nelson’s business acumen has not waned. He has plenty of opportunity to put it to good use and he does so for Erik. Nelson serves on The Baddour Center’s Board of Trustees. 

“When he talks about The Baddour Center, he’s like a different person,” said Sharon Bryant, office manager at IDI. “His passion for The Baddour Center really comes through.” 

Why is The Baddour Center so dear to Nelson’s heart? Because the center has enabled Erik to grow, learn and achieve.  

“Why is that such an accomplishment?” asked Nelson. “Ask the doctor who told us that Erik would never be capable of achieving more than a 9-year-old boy. Ask the specialists who didn’t believe in Erik and never challenged him to do his best. 

“You can even ask us,” he said, referring to his wife, Mary, and himself. “We thought Erik couldn’t sing a note or remember words to songs.” 

“The Baddour Center has transformed Erik’s life,” Mary Nelson said, “and given him a joy that affects all who know him.” 

Every day, Erik works in one of the work complexes located on the campus of The Baddour Center, which provides him a sense of accomplishment, as well as a paycheck. 

Erik has been elected mayor of The Baddour Center several times. He participates in Special Olympics and sings with The Miracles, a traveling group of musically gifted residents who share their talents and love of God with people all across the United States. 

“All of this is very difficult to put into words,” said Mary Nelson. “I thank The Baddour Center for giving my son the opportunity to be all that he can be and to realize that for himself. 

“The staff there is truly God’s blessing to this special population,” she said. “They are a ‘spirit saver’ for a mother who wants the best for her son. 

“They are a blessing to a family that will never take any of them for granted,” she added. “I wish you could meet Erik and all his friends so that you could understand the special joy The Baddour Center brings to many families like mine.” 

For information about The Baddour Center, call Public Relations Manager Karen Dunn toll free at 1-888-422-3368, ext. 1-231, locally at 662-562-0100, or by email at You can also check out the center’s Web site at 

The Baddour Center is a conference-related health and welfare institution.