DANVILLE -- As co-founder of The Taylor Family Foundation and Camp Arroyo in Livermore, Barry Taylor spent more than 20 years helping seriously ill and at-risk children be themselves.
On Monday, friends and family remembered Taylor -- who died Saturday from a heart attack at the age of 74 -- as a compassionate and generous man who never forgot his humble beginnings.
"Every time he saw a kid in need he would find a way to help," said his wife Elaine Taylor. "He always thought of something bigger than himself."
A successful businessman, Taylor started his own office equipment company in the Bay Area, building it into an industry leader with 2,500 employees. He later served on the board of the March of Dimes Foundation, and he and his wife hosted fundraisers in their backyard for children with HIV/AIDS. Together, they started The Taylor Family Foundation in 1990 to fund programs, field trips and other activities for youth living with the disease.
In 2000, the foundation and the East Bay Regional Park District partnered to open the 138-acre Camp Arroyo in Livermore to provide a respite for children with a variety of chronic illnesses, developmental disabilities and emotional challenges in a traditional summer camp setting.
"No longer are they singled out for having an illness," Elaine Taylor said. "They don't have to explain who they are, they just get to be kids."
Located on 138 acres, Camp Arroyo has welcomed 3,000 campers each year from throughout Northern California to swim, play sports and socialize, all free of charge. Since its inception, the foundation has helped more than 40,000 children and 75,000 families. The YMCA of the East Bay helps operate the camp, which also hosts special events and field trips throughout the school year.
The Taylor Family Foundation's signature fund raising event is the annual Day in the Park at Camp Arroyo, The one-day summer event features food and drink from local restaurants, wineries and breweries and silent and live auctions. The August 2011 fundraiser brought in $1.3 million.
Taylor Family Foundation executive director Angie Carmignani, who Taylor referred to as his "fourth daughter," remembered Taylor as an "amazing businessman" with a personal touch.
"He had a way of helping you get out of your box," Carmignani said. "He was an amazing mentor. I could call him at anytime and he would drop just about anything to take the call ... It was just part of who he was."
Carmignani added that Taylor's compassion and ideas were the driving forces for building the camp's "community of equality."
"He had a way, and it came from such a genuine place," she said. "My heart is truly broken."
Former East Bay Regional Park District general manager Pat O'Brien, who worked out the purchase of the camp property, called Taylor the "silent strength" behind the endeavor.
"He was a fantastic man," O'Brien said. "He had a gentle way about him, but a strong business sense ... It was a privilege to know him."
Prior to his death, Taylor was semi-retired, but still spent a significant amount of time on the nonprofit on fundraising and marketing.
"He was the best visionary I ever met," said his wife. "The Foundation will probably live on forever. He definitely left his footprint on this planet."
Contact Jeremy Thomas at 925-847-2184. Follow him at Twitter.com/jet_bang.
A public celebration of Taylor Family Foundation co-founder Barry Taylor's life will be held Jan. 11 at 3 p.m. at Camp Arroyo in Livermore. The camp is at 5555 Arroyo Rd. iFor more information, call 925-455-5118.