Derick Daly: Stepping up and stepping out for his community
By Amelia Blades Steward | Photos by Stephen Walker
Derick Daly playfully displays the BAAM logo on his sweatshirt while posing in front of the new multi-purpose building on Jowite Street in Easton. The logo and colors are boldly integrated in the modern architectural façade.
When Derick Daly, Executive Director of Building African American Minds (BAAM), talks about his passion and the mission of his nonprofit organization, he likes to share the story of “The Dreamer and the Millionaire.”
“While getting my undergraduate degree in accounting at Suffolk University in Boston, all I wanted to do was to graduate and make a million dollars, because I thought money brings happiness,” he reflects.
But money wasn’t the answer. It was creating a framework for opportunity.
Daly grew up in a moderate-income family in Boston. His mother, a homemaker, cared for four children, and pursued a master’s degree in social work as an empty-nester. His father worked for the Gillette Company, and became a pastor after the couple retired to the Caribbean.
Derick Daly is surrounded by a group of middle-school boys who gather to do homework and then get rewarded with the opportunity to play basketball in the state-of-the-art gymnasium.
“My father was smart with money and investments,” said Daly. “He bought a three-story home and rented two of the stories so he could live rent-free in the middle. Although he was not formally educated, he was the smartest person I have ever known. I got my work ethic from him.”
During Daly’s last year at Suffolk University, he married his wife Dina and commuted back and forth between Boston and the Eastern Shore where she had gotten a job as a social worker. After graduation, he got an accounting job with Orion Safety Products in Easton and worked there for 25 years.
During this time, Daly got involved in the community, first as a member of Rotaract — a junior Rotary Club. He then became a member of Rotary, served on the board of the United Fund, on the Finance Committee of the Academy Art Museum, and on the Scholarship Committee for Mid-Shore Community Foundation (MSCF).
In 2003, only one applicant applied to a scholarship at MSCF that he and his wife created for African American male students attending college. That’s when Daly realized his life’s purpose.
“That sparked the beginning of BAAM,” he said. “My wife Dina and I realized that if there was only one African American applicant for the scholarship that we had a problem in our community.”
BAAM Board President Bill Ryan and Executive Director Derick Daly share a proud moment as they witness their program and building become a reality.
Daly met local businessmen A. James Clark and William T. Hunter at a MSCF gathering. They heard his dream to address the issue that young African American men were at high risk for academic failure and wanted to create a long-term solution to the problem.
“Can you do anything?” they asked.
“Yes,” he answered.
That’s when they asked him what he needed.
In 2005, Daly and his wife Dina created BAAM, a program that identifies at-risk first-grade boys, recognizes and addresses socioeconomic barriers that inhibit their ability to learn effectively, and provides academic enrichment in a safe, caring, and structured environment. The organization believes that by saving one child, it could be saving generations of children.
BAAM started as a pilot program for 10 students at Easton Elementary School, three days a week for one and a half hours each day after school. Today, the program is offered four days a week for two hours each day and has grown to include over 70 boys in grades first through fifth grades.
In 2013, Daly met Bill Ryan, who is now president of the BAAM board. At the time, Ryan was looking to donate to a local organization and identified BAAM from the United Fund agency list. Although from different backgrounds, the two shared a common business — both worked in safety products. Ryan’s family-owned MSA The Safety Company bills itself as the worldwide leader in worker protection and safety product innovation. His family’s company had developed the Edison Flameless Electric Miners’ Cap Lamp with Thomas Edison.
“Our friendship grew from his initial $500 donation,” said Daly. “Today, he is a major donor and we are like family. We brought our skills together and developed our dream for the community. He is a big piece of this.”
In 2015, Daly got a spiritual message that woke him up at 3 a.m. It lit a fire under him to build an Athletic Center to serve the boys and their families. Daly recalls saying that night to God, “But I am a numbers man, and I don’t like dealing with the public.”
Daly then remembered his father. “He was the great communicator. He was able to get things done by talking with people. Watching that became the root of me — it was implanted. He modeled the community role that I needed to get this project done.”
During this same time, Daly had reached the financial goal he set for himself in college. But his reaction was different than he thought it would be.
“Even though I reached my financial goal, the material things weren’t making me happy,” he said.
Derick and his wife, Dina, hug after not seeing each other for a day. The couple is committed to BAAM, the organization they founded in 2005.
“I also realized that if I was going to take BAAM to another level, I needed to be spiritually involved. God asked me to step up and step out. I was baptized and re-committed my life to Him.”
Three years after purchasing a property, on December 14, 2019, BAAM opened the doors of its new facility at 31 Jowite Street to the community. The organization had raised the $3.5 million needed for its new building — and when the building opened it was fully paid for by private donations. The new BAAM Athletic Center has two purposes — to attract middle and high school students to stay engaged in the program and to engage their families.
“BAAM started with boys in first grade and we had a plan to follow them all the way through to their first jobs,” Daly said. Now, we are caring for the boys, as well as their families.”
Since its opening in December 2019, BAAM’s Athletic Center has gained 300 community “members” who are utilizing all types of services. “We are using this building to help people find jobs and to further their education,” he said. “We hope to have Chesapeake College classes offered here in the not too distant future and we will be allowing the Census to operate here.”
But Daly’s dream was not over. In 2019, he and his family and some friends started Polaris Village Ministries, a village of support for people who want to find their purpose in life and optimize their potential through biblical principles.
He smiles, “This building exudes light and safety and new people are coming through the door every day.”