As the sun rose on Grand Park on Sunday morning, the smell of pancakes and sausage filled the air.
In Colts City, tables were set for 35 children and their foster families.
"The Ballards presented this idea about cooking pancakes for the kids prior to doing a book distribution, which we do every training camp, but it just adds a special element to it, especially since it's a morning practice," said Steve Fugate, Owner and CFO of Cargo Services, Inc.
For 10 years, the Colts have teamed up with Cargo Services and the Indiana Department of Child Services to distribute backpacks filled with 25 age-appropriate books to Indiana foster children.
It's a cause Colts General Manager Chris Ballard and his wife, Kristin, have embraced.
"The Ballards, having foster children that they adopted, they get it," said Stacy Lozer with Indiana DCS. "Their message to not just the foster children, but to every one of our foster parents and relative foster parents who were here today was incredible."
For the Ballards, it's personal. When they saw what Cargo Services was doing, they couldn't help but get involved.
"We saw the heart of Steve and John and we knew that it was something that we were passionate about," said Kristin. "It's not only the children, it's the foster families that help these children and help them develop and grow. Any way that we can give back to that is something we want to do."
And they've stepped up in a big way to do it.
"Their passion for the kids and the parents and the system are just off the charts," Fugate said. "It really makes a huge difference."
Chris may be busy building a team, but he's not too busy to make a difference in the lives of kids who need it the most.
"I'm more excited to meet them than they are to meet me," he said. "Like I tell them, it doesn't matter the circumstances, it matters what you do with them."
The Ballards know it takes a village to raise a child and raising foster children takes teamwork. So, they brought part of their team to help.
"We've only been in this for eight years," said Kristin. "But we know it takes a support system, so everybody you see behind this table right here is part of our support system."
And they want to be a part of the support system for all foster families in Indiana.
"All you do, all the families, the extra time you give – you're changing lives. Don't ever forget that. You're changing lives," Chris said. "And all these kids are getting the love that they need. And we can't tell you how much we appreciate you and all you do."
On Sunday, August 5, Chris and Kristin Ballard, along with their family, and the Department of Child Services (DCS), hosted a special pancake breakfast and "Books for Youth" backpack distribution event at Grand Park in Westfield, at Colts Training Camp. For this event, the Ballard Family and DCS invited 35 foster children and their families (approximately 150 people) to enjoy breakfast and pick up their "Books for Youth" backpack filled with 25 age-appropriate books.
The Ballards stuck around to help distribute backpacks, talk with the parents, play with the kids, and make sure everyone felt appreciated – in one case, even taking the opportunity to show some extra love.
"It was one of those moments where this event meant everything to one very special child here who had a really rough week. And he forgot about that week when he got here and he got around Blue, he got his backpack, he met the Ballards, the Ballards spent an extra moment just sharing with him how proud they are of him and giving him strength," said Lozer. "We do this a lot, but you never know how much it can mean to one child."
Football is family.
In Indiana, the Ballards found a home and a family.
And together with the Colts and their partners, they want to help foster kids do the same.