When Sports Make a Difference

Daniel kid at sharks game
That’s 8 year old Claude with the smile of a kid attending his first live football game. Daniel Family Services Counselor Tim Decker is along side.

by Cole Pepper

Before I begin, some disclosures. I sit on the Board of Trustees of Daniel, Florida’s oldest child service agency. I’ve been involved with that charity for about six years and care deeply for the work that Daniel does for children and families in our community.

Disclosure #2. As you probably know, I call the TV play-by-play for the Sharks games on Channel 4. The Sharks pay me for my efforts.

That being said, this is a cool story.

Claude is 8 years old. He had never attended an organized sporting event.

He has been in foster care for several years and hopes to find a “forever family.”  Claude has endured struggles and overcome overcome obstacles in his short life that none of use would wish upon our enemies.

He and his sister were neglected and abused by their mother. They were placed in foster care apart from one another, to allow them the ability to have more one on one attention to heal. Eventually the biological mother’s parental rights were terminated and Claude became eligible to be adopted. Shortly after moving in with his new/adoptive family he suffered more abuse and the adoption failed. 

Not a bad way to experience your first Sharks game, huh?
Not a bad way to experience your first Sharks game, huh?

But then he came to Daniel. The staff at Daniel helped Claude deal with the issues that were holding him back and helped him cope. He was placed in a new foster home. His grades improved and he became the Claude that he was before. Happy, energetic, outgoing.

Over the past several months, with the help of his Daniel staff and foster mom, Claude has turned it all around through hard work, determination, and perseverance.  He recently received a most-improved award and was honored at the recognition ceremony with Family Support Services (FSS).

“I’ve known Claude since he cam into our care and I’ve watched him progress along the way,” said Decker. “I have told Claude on many occasions that good behavior gets you good things, and bad behavior gets you bad things.This is short and simple, but I hope that the positive reinforcement he has received for his improvements will help to ingrain this way of thinking for Claude. ”

Last Saturday, when the Sharks hosted the Spokane Shock at the Arena, Claude got to live a dream of his: attending his first football game. He and Tim Decker, a Daniel Family Services Counselor, were guests of the Sharks. Claude even got to go on the field in the second quarter and meet the players. He received a #5 Jeff Hughley jersey which he wore the entire game.

Daniel kid with sharks jerseyClaude’s review was simple, but powerful: “It was good,” he said

Claude has now realized one dream, to see a football game live and in person. That’s quite a dream. Now, Claude hopes to realize one more dream and find a forever family soon.


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