A crowd, brought to their feet and wiping their tears, celebrated the Gandy Family on June 17th, 2023 in Grayson Stadium.
Jim and Iris Gandy became a licensed foster family in 2018. The family currently have 9 children in their home. Of those children, 6 are currently in care and 3 are adopted or obtained legal guardianship after fostering them for years. The ages range from 5-months to 17-years old and one child is considered medically fragile.
I first heard about The Gandy Family from their foster care licensing agency, NECCO. NECCO was founded in 1996 as a provider of in-home therapeutic foster care, Necco has grown into a multi-state child welfare organization offering a broad array of services, including Foster Care, Adoption, Counseling, Independent Living and Residential Living. Each of these service lines employs the most innovative programs and treatment approaches designed to equip children with the tools they need to live fulfilling, purpose-driven lives.
NECCO nominated the family for one of our celebrations and said, “Jim and Iris are AMAZING foster parents. They take ANY child no matter the age or circumstance. They have always been one of the very best foster families that we have ever had.”
After hearing their story, I knew I had to get them to Grayson Stadium to celebrate in front of a sold-out crowd.
HOME RUN HITTERS
The Gandy Family arrived at Grayson Stadiums, two cars, two strollers, and 11 smiling faces of excitement for the night at the ballpark. This was their first Banana Ball game…EVER. The whole family was given a behind-the-scenes tour of the stadium, met a majority of our team, and was outfitted in true potassium fashion.
After their tour, they re-entered the stadium as a VIB (Very Important Banana) and got the unique experience to sign the stadium fan wall, take pictures, and meet the players.
As we brought the family out to the field and realized we were in need two iconic performances in Bananaland: the home run hitter and fan warm up. The home run hitter is where a child hits the ball and battles it out against The Party Animals for a home run. The fan warm up is the child that leads the entire stadium in a dance warm up before the start of the game. Among the Gandy kiddos, we had a little boy and girl who were eager to get on the field and willing to jump into the role.
Our team brought the kids down to the field and I could tell they were excited and ready to take on the crowd. It’s hard to put into words these moments for me on the field, so take a look at these photos for yourself!
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
When I returned to the family in the middle of the game, I sat with Iris who told me more of their story. Jim and Iris have 5 biological children, who are all now married and have their own children. The couple has 10 biological grandchildren. They are passionate about their faith and were driven to give more children a home so they became a licensed foster family.
In this conversation, Iris told me that our fan warm up girlie was picked up from the hospital at 3 months old. She was in such bad shape that the doctors said she would never be able to walk or talk in her lifetime. I was shocked. How could this child who ROCKED the fan warm up and show no signs of trauma be in that state when coming into their care. Then I thought how amazing that this family was open, kind and loving and accepted her into their home to give her a beautiful life. It gave me chills and left me speechless.
In honor of the incredible impact the Gandy Family has made on the foster care community, we chose them to celebrate at the end of the 7th inning. It was the first celebration for our organization but we welcomed them onto the field.
With Jesse and Emily Cole at their side, sharing their story, and giving them the recognition they deserve, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Fans brought to their feet and wiping their tears, we clapped, we cried, and we cheered for this family.
The Gandy Family stayed the entire game. I’ll be honest when I say this goodbye was difficult for me. I got to know this family on a personal level and I was touched by their story. They have left a lasting impact on myself and our organization and I’m grateful they believed in us to share their journey.