“We have a team Christmas party every year,” coach Jeff Forehand said. “This year we changed it up and put the focus on others rather than doing it for our own entertainment.”
The baseball team held a party for children that are part of the Front Porch ministry in Nashville’s inner city. They picked up the children at their homes and brought them to the Shamblin Theater located in the Bennett Center on the Lipscomb campus for the party.
Forehand first learned of the ministry from an article written by Brent High, Lipscomb’s assistant athletic director for external affairs.
“We adopted seven families and invited the kids to a party,” Forehand said. “We picked them up in the school’s purple buses. We played Christmas games and ate and had a good time.”
Approximately 20 children attended the party.
The Front Porch Ministry, led by Michele and Thom Hazelip, lives up to its name. The Hazelip family lives in North Nashville near streets where bullets, drugs and other crimes are commonplace. They open their home to the residents of the area, dealing primarily with single mothers and their children.
“It meant a lot for the baseball team to have a party that allowed the kids to leave their neighborhood and go to a place like Lipscomb,” Thom said. “The kids’ eyes were so big. The campus looked like the Taj Mahal compared to places they normally go.
“Anytime people spend time with our kids it means a lot. But having a college baseball team and the coaches pick them up in a bus they really felt special. It made them feel important and cared about.”
Thom believes strongly that sharing the love of Christ starts with relationships and the development of a community. And that is one of the things that impressed him the most about the Bisons’ baseball team. Not only did they have a party for the children, but the players got together in small groups and developed relationships with individual families.
“We have other stuff that we do for them during the season, but there was nothing that had as big an impact on these kids as this party. Important people treated them like they were important.”
The shopping trip was an eye opener for Forehand’s players. Forehand thinks everyone came away from the experience with a better understanding of what it means to give.
“The players raised their own money,” Forehand said. “The players broke up into seven groups and went shopping with the kids to let them know that it is Christmas time, a time to think of others more.
“The players are all kids at heart too. T.J Hoelzer bonded right away with a kid named T.J. We had our guys and their dates walking around Target with these kids. Some of the players had kids on their shoulders. We had 90 people together on a shopping trip.”
Thom and his four children also were part of the shopping trip.
“Jeff got up and explained to the children that they were going to go shopping, but that it was a time of giving,” Thom said. “The kids bought into it. They had a blast.”
Thom is a 1995 graduate of Lipscomb University with bachelor’s degrees in Communications and Finance. He was a consultant and also bought houses that could be renovated and sold at a higher price. During a search for such properties he was drawn to a particular neighborhood a couple of blocks from Dickerson Road.
He and Michele moved from Crieve Hall to McFerrin Park in 2006. Three years later their ministry officially became a non-profit organization.
“It’s unbelievable what the Lord has led Thom and his family to do,” Forehand said. “He does a lot of things for those kids. “Not only did those kids and their moms get something out of it, but it had an impact on our players. The most fun thing to watch was how players responded. It was a pretty neat deal.”
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.