Vincent Steckler: A Real “Magical” Man (1958-2021)

Generous philanthropist. Brilliant board member. An incredible human being. Genuine Kindness Ambassador.

 

Picture: Vince and Amanda Steckler, Kindness Ambassadors at Picnic en Blanc in Redwood City 2018 to support Magical Bridge Playground in Redwood City. 

 

It is with profound shock, sadness, and disbelief I write about the tragic loss of a long-time friend, board member, and generous supporter of Magical Bridge Foundation, Vincent Stecker. 

As the legendary CEO of Avast, he was known around the world for his impact on technology and innovation, but we knew a different Vince. One, who profoundly and quietly supported causes meaningful to him and his family, lucky for us, Magical Bridge Foundation, was up at the top of that list.

I met Vince in my hour of need back in 2013. After 7 long years, the volunteer team for Palo Alto’s first Magical Bridge project was desperately looking to secure another $300,000 for construction to begin. A large donor had suddenly backed out and we needed to fill that pledge fast. As I reached out to community friends for help, I was introduced to a “wonderful new couple” who had just moved to Palo Alto which is how I met Amanda, Vince’s lovely wife. We had coffee to discuss the possibility of their help on the project and the very next day, Amanda asked Vince to make this critical and significant donation as her only wish for an upcoming birthday gift. It was their kindness and their generosity that saved the day and enabled us to break ground.

After the successful opening of Magical Bridge playground in 2015, and with a wide interest in this new kind of playground, my dear friend Jill Asher and I decided to start a foundation and continue with this work. Our Silicon Valley roots grounded us in the reality that, in order to do so, we would need seed money. Once again, like real magic, Vince and Amanda enthusiastically believed in us and provided much of the starting capital to create Magical Bridge Foundation as a non-profit in 2016. 

Our warm friendship with Vince and his family started in Palo Alto and continued when they moved to Singapore, Amanda’s beloved birthplace. There, Vince continued his demanding role as Avast’s CEO, but increased his interest in our work until, once again, he offered the magic of his help at yet another pivotal time. We were growing fast and busting out of our modest offices downtown Palo Alto, but eager to remain in our hometown where local kids and teens volunteers could bike over. Our flagship playground was in Palo Alto but our budget for a rental space certainly was not. On a visit to the Bay Area in 2018, Vince was excited about a space where Amanda would soon open a Singaporean restaurant, Killiney Kopitiam. Upstairs, was a great second floor office that was surely prime real estate for a well-funded startup. Once again, thanks to Vince, this office became our home base, with excellent food downstairs to boot. How very magical!

Two years ago, Vince retired as Avast’s CEO to enjoy more time with his beloved family and dedicate more time to his many philanthropic activities. He believed in transformational change, and in addition to a $10.4M he and Amanda gifted his alma mater UC Irvine, he decided it was time for Magical Bridge playgrounds to be brought to the world. As such, Vince and Amanda decided to fully sponsor two Magical Bridge destination playgrounds in Singapore, with additional ones planned for the Pathlight Schools serving those with autism. Collaborating in these projects meant I had the pleasure of weekly calls with Vince, which were always a highlight of my week. We would start by chatting about his family, early morning bike rides around town, his shared passion for McLaren cars with Amanda, and the enjoyment of a breakfast with the kids before school. The love he had for his family was evident in each and every conversation and in everything he did. 

In June 2021, we had planned to make exciting announcements about our Magical Bridge projects in Singapore. It breaks my heart to know that Vince won’t ever see the beautiful spaces he spent years working on to bring to fruition. Along with his generous sponsorship of playground projects, Vince served on the Magical Bridge Board of Directors for the past three years, where he was admired for his insights and his business acumen. He made us a stronger, more thoughtful board and will be forever missed. 

Vince’s business brilliance and industry successes are legendary. However, I had the privilege of knowing Vince as a loving family man and selfless philanthropist. The thousands of families that, often for the first time, now have a place to play at Magical Bridge, can all thank this mighty man. Joining his beloved grieving family is each member of our Magical Bridge team and Board of Directors, who deeply mourn the loss of a man who the world lost far too soon. May the memories of his kindness and generosity live on in all who were lucky enough to know him, and may each of the Magical Bridge projects he sponsored bring endless joy to families of all abilities for decades to come. We are keeping his family deep in our hearts.

At the request of his family, in lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation in his memory to the Vince Steckler Innovation Fund. The Innovation Fund (in recognition of Vince’s profound contributions in the areas of technology and philanthropy) helps Magical Bridge Foundation to research, develop, and deploy innovative and new technologies in the area of inclusive play. 

 

Olenka Villarreal, Founder and CEO

Magical Bridge Foundation