Updated: May 15, 2010 at 12:00 am
Breanna Fitzgerald was nervous before walking onto the Sky Sox baseball field Saturday in east Colorado Springs with about 100 other former foster care children and their adoptive parents.
But she ended up having loads of fun.
“It was awesome,” Breanna, 8, said afterward. “It feels like there’s so much room out there on the grass.”
The special event was sponsored by Focus on the Family, which paid for 200 Sky Sox tickets for families who’ve adopted children from the Colorado foster care program. The families were also treated to dinner, and the children received a baseball glove and got to play in the Fun Zone, which has monkey bars, slides and inflatables.
Management at Security Service Field allowed the families to play catch on the field before the game. Focus President and CEO Jim Daly then threw out the first pitch, a bull’s-eye.
Focus sponsored the event to give back to the community and raise awareness of the need for foster care adoptions, Focus spokesman Gary Schneeberger said.
Plans for the event got underway in late April, when Focus asked the El Paso County Department of Human Services to e-mail foster care parents, inviting them to a free dinner and Sky Sox game.
Focus planned to pay the way for 100 people but doubled its guest list because of the big response.
“We filled up our first hundred spots in about an hour,” Schneeberger said. “They went faster than tickets to a U2 concert.”
Since 2008, Focus has raised awareness about state foster care adoptions through its Adoption & Orphan Care program. Within the program are a post-adoption support team and Wait No More, which co-sponsors adoption awareness events with the Colorado Department of Human Services.
Wait No More, which features pictures and short biographies of foster children, along with information on how to adopt, has put on six events in five states, including two in Colorado.
The program nationwide has helped 940 families find foster children, said Kelly Rosati, Focus senior director of the sanctity of human life.
In Colorado in 2007, there were 875 foster children in need of families, said Sharen Ford, manager for permanency services at the state Department of Human Services in Denver. Now, that’s down to 365.
Ford doesn’t give all the credit to Wait No More, but she says the program has been a significant factor. “Wait No More drives families to action,” Ford said.
Tom and Donna Paxton, of Colorado Springs, attended Saturday’s event with their three adopted boys: Kale, 16, Damon, 9, and Jimmy, 6. Kale and Jimmy had never been to a baseball game, and Jimmy had been to only one. All are huge Sky Sox fans.
Donna Paxton praised Focus’ efforts involving state foster care. “These kids need a home,” she said. “I would love to see more adoptions.”
Also taking part was the Wood family, of Colorado Springs, whose two adopted children, 6-year-old James and 5-year-old Kaylie, had never been to a Sky Sox game. Their mom, Anna Wood, said her children had been looking forward to the game for weeks.
“This shows that the community actually cares what happens to these children,” Anna Wood said.
Focus’ decision to give each child a baseball glove had its inspiration in a story told by Daly in his 2007 autobiography.
When Daly was 7 years old, his absentee father made a rare visit, at which time he promised the boy a baseball glove. But Daly’s dad never delivered.
“My trust in him took a hard knock that day,” Daly writes. “I was no longer confident that he’d be there when I needed him.”
Daly was raised by his single mom until her death when he was 9 years old. He then entered the foster care system.
Sitting at Sky Sox stadium, his glove on a table before Daly was to throw the first pitch, Daly reflected on the evening’s festivities.
“It means so much to a foster child to have an adult say, ‘You matter to me,’” Daly said. “That’s what we want to get across.
“We want to bring some joy into these kids’ lives.”
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