Paul Konerko teams up with Jim Thome both in the White Sox lineup and off the field in a special fundraising effort.
12/06/2007 9:55 AM ET
Konerko, Thome support foster families
By George Castle / Special to MLBPLAYERS.com
But beyond producing runs and garnering money for a good cause, Konerko would like to help change the image of foster parents and children.
"If people hear of fostering a child, they associate it with a problem, that it's going to cause problems in their own household," the White Sox first baseman said. "I've seen this firsthand and it's just not the case.
"The child is in a tough situation and I think if they were fostering the parents of this child, that might bring problems to the house. But when you're talking about a child, in my mind there's no such thing as a bad kid."
There's also no such thing as a bad effort to help bring some kind of order to an child's life. That's why Konerko and Thome launched, in conjunction with White Sox Charities, the Bring Me Home Campaign to benefit Illinois foster families.
The campaign invites fans to join Team Thome-Konerko by making a one-time donation to Children's Home + Aid, or fans were able to pledge a donation based on the combined runs the sluggers scored during the 2007 season.
To kick off the Bring Me Home Campaign, the Thome and Konerko families, along with Sox Charities, each donated $10,000 to Children's Home + Aid for a combined contribution of $30,000.
Children's Home + Aid, founded in 1883, helps nearly 40,000 children and families in Illinois through a wide range of services like adoption, foster care, education, counseling and child abuse prevention programs. Some 1,000 children are provided foster care through the organization.
"Jim and I told the White Sox before the '06 season that we wanted to partner in something and do something together," said Konerko, who re-signed with the Sox after 2005 partly because the team traded for Thome. "We went through five to 10 different kind of options to see what Jim's and my families were both interested in. It took a while to hit the nail on the head. We both wanted to help out kids.
Konerko had first-hand knowledge of how the fostering process worked.
"My wife's (Jennifer) family back home are foster parents and have adopted children, so it was personal experience," he said. "We were listening to a lot of different ideas because you only have so much time you can give. Jim and his wife (Andrea), me and my wife, it was exactly what we were looking for.
"We're learning as we go. My wife obviously had a head start. Her family has taken in 40-50 kids over that time and they've adopted some. You want to help them out. It's not their parents' choice, they don't either want to have them or they're not equipped to do it. You can change a kid's life by doing it."
Konerko realizes the private sector and individual contributors have to carry the load here.
"It's not the highest priority on government's list of where to throw money," he said. "If all we do is get word out to the millions of Sox fans and maybe there's some people in there who make donations or take it to the next step of actually fostering a kid, that's where we're after. If we can start by getting the word out to our fans, it can make a difference."
Konerko is no stranger to community involvement. He participated in the Habitat for Humanity home build, which helped families displaced by Hurricane Katrina, in the U.S. Cellular Field neighborhood. He has delivered baby blankets to a Chicago hospital, and greeted prostate cancer survivors and military personnel in White Sox pregame ceremonies.
But Team Thome-Konerko hits close to home.
"We feel like we can do this bit by bit every year, do a little more," Konerko said. "Hopefully, 10 years from now, it will bring reasons for me to come back to Chicago. We want to build this. Start off small, do things right. This is something I want to do for a long time. You put your time in, latch onto it and make a difference."
One day Konerko could see the issue of foster parenting from the inside-out.
"I would consider it, absolutely," he said of becoming a foster parent after his career is over. "We have a hard time now taking care of a 2-year-old (Nicholas). If I was in one place for 12 months and had control of the schedule, I definitely would consider it. I've seen it first-hand that it would make a difference. I wouldn't put it past me."
-- Red Line Editorial