On Wednesday night at Victory Field, the Indianapolis Indians prepared to play the Columbus Clippers.
And Indiana foster kids got something to help them prepare for the rest of their lives.
"We're handing out backpacks with books in them for children that are in foster care," said Terry Stigdon, Director of the Indiana Department of Child Services. "We are showing how one small idea can grow into something very big and really important for kids."
For the past 10 years, the Colts have partnered with Cargo Services and the Indiana Department of Child Services to distribute backpacks filled with 25 age appropriate books to Indiana foster children.
"Being in foster care is tough for kids. It means that something was going on in their lives where they need some extra support. This is something solid, something tangible for them to hold onto that's theirs," Stigdon said. "It's really important for foster kids to have something that they own, something that's their own."
When Colts General Manager Chris Ballard and his wife, Kristin, heard about it, they became the poster family for Books For Youth.
"We knew we wanted to get involved," said Chris. "To be able to reach a kid who, life hasn't gone his way and it's not his fault or her fault, those opportunities for our family to give back and to reach those children are important to us."
"They need a chance to read, succeed in life and if we can be a part of that, then that's what we want to do," said Kristin. "It's just a passion for us and I think it should be a passion for the community."
The Ballards are parents to five children, including two they adopted through the foster system.
The Indianapolis Colts, the Ballard family, the Indianapolis Indians and the Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS) hosted a Books for Youth event at Victory Field, during which 35 Hoosier foster children received donated backpacks filled with 25 age-appropriate books.
For the Ballard family, life is a team game – on the field, in the community, and at home.
"It's never about one person," Kristin said. "Even when the kids got in trouble as little ones, they all got in trouble – because we're a team. If you can't help your teammate out, then everybody is going to have a consequence."
Serving together has brought them closer – to each other and their new city.
"That was so important for me. When they asked us to be a part of this, it's all about family and it's all about coming together. The kids needed to be a part of that," she said. "I think they're finally feeling a part of the community and finally feeling like they can give something back and share what they have."
And the gift of reading is a great gift to share.
"Any time you get a chance to read, you just never know what idea is going to spark and inspire a young person," Chris said. "Being able to give these books to them, hopefully it inspires them to do something great."
Joined by the Colts Cheerleaders and Colts mascot, Blue, they handed out backpacks to 35 kids.
Afterwards, they were invited down to the field where one young boy and Ballard's youngest son, Cash, threw out the ceremonial first pitches.
It was a beautiful night at the ballpark. And a great way to celebrate family, community, and sports.
"Any time we can do things together as organizations for the community and for children, I think it's a great thing," said Chris.
For the Ballards, that's what it's all about.
Football is the way.
Family is the why.
And giving back is a way of life.