The young man sheepishly walked up to me on his way to the buffet.
“Yes, please, go through as many times as you like! We want you guys to eat until the food is gone.”
That may seem like a very basic conversation to many, but it’s one that even as I type this now, brings a huge lump to my throat. The reaction on that student’s face when I told him he could get more food was pure joy and excitement. Frankly, I’m somewhat ashamed to write, the reaction was similar to what I see from my kids on Christmas morning. And this young man was showing this type of excitement about food—not some video game. That was one of many incredible expressions I saw this summer during our inaugural “C” You At The “K” program.
Our mission statement at the “C” You In The Major Leagues Foundation is “Building tomorrow’s leaders through America’s pastime.” So we developed a program that would allow 12-15 high school students from six groups that work with kids in underserved or at-risk areas of Kansas City to come to Kauffman Stadium for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The kids would get to watch batting practice on the field, receive a 30-minute character-based leadership talk from our founder/executive director/Royals’ general manager Dayton Moore, eat a nice dinner in one of the conference rooms on the suite level, and then watch that night’s Royals game. Additionally, each participant received a signed copy of Dayton’s “More Than A Season” book, a “C” You In The Major Leagues “Lead with a C” performance t-shirt, and other Royals or foundation gear. Basically, we wanted to treat these students and chaperones to a first-class night at the stadium.
(In full disclosure, the one aspect of each event that I wanted to make sure we got absolutely right was the food. If they didn’t get to watch batting practice on the field because of the weather or the team decided not to take it, that’d be OK. If, for some odd reason, the tickets weren’t great seats, that’s fine. Of course, I knew, because of Dayton’s passion for youth, the talk would mesmerize them each time so there was no concern there. With the food, though, we didn’t know each student’s story before they came, so we didn’t know if that meal might be their only one that day or for several days. I don’t believe anyone left hungry.)
Then, after one of our first events, Darol Rodrock and the Darol Rodrock Foundation joined us as a supporter in this journey. We then incorporated Darol talking with the kids, which was tremendous for everyone. Darol overcame a childhood that included homelessness and foster care, and became one of Kansas City’s most successful home builders. His story and the way he presents it is captivating. Having Darol’s involvement added another person who’s passionate about making a difference in student’s lives. It was a joy getting to know Darol.
With the exception of one group that we needed to move to another month because of rain, “C” You At The “K” went off without a hitch. That’s mainly due to the people involved. Several people were instrumental and need to be thanked for their involvement and support this season: Ben Aken, Katie McMullen, and Jonathan McGuff with the Royals community relations department who helped get this launched, provided game tickets, and made sure we got to each location each time; Jason Booker and Ben Christian with the Royals corporate sponsorships for bringing Darol Rodrock aboard; Melyssa Blanchett and Erin Delgado from Aramark who made sure the kids had plenty of (great) food; and Dayton’s assistant Emily Penning, who does more than I can list here. Of course the biggest thanks goes to Dayton for his time and energy. Dayton and his wife Marianne started “C” You In The Major Leagues with a major goal of making an impact in the lives of youth in Kansas City (and beyond).
“So many of the kids we work with don’t have anyone in their lives to tell them that they ‘can’ do something. … After listening to Dayton, I could tell that several of them felt a little spark and now have heard from someone else say that they ‘can.’”
“Dayton Moore and Darol Rodrock personally took time to inspire and encourage young people in how to focus to achieve their goals and dreams with character, integrity, passion and hard work. … When successful adults take time to reach out and bless children within their communities, amazing things happen and future leaders are born.”
“(During dinner) Dayton got to know us even more personally, and he seemed more interested in us and our stories than most people do. It made the kids feel valued to be cared about by such an important person to our city.”
Here’s the thing, though. As much as those students and chaperones were blessed, I was blessed tenfold by being there with them. I’d like to think I’m a relatively decent, God-fearing guy who tries to help others, but watching the kids get to experience something that 90% of Royals fans of all ages will never experience, seeing them interact with Dayton, serving as one of the “tour guides” for each event, was life-changing for me. I’ve done some incredible things and worked with amazing people during my career. I’ve worked in some form with many of my childhood heroes — mostly Royals, including my ultimate hero, Amos Otis. I’ve even been able to ghostwrite for some of sports’ most recognizable names. But being able to play a miniscule part in giving approximately 75 high students hope and a meal and possibly even helping change a life is, perhaps, the most impactful thing I’ve done in my professional life thus far.
But the inaugural year of “C” You At The “K” is just a start. There’s much more to do. And I can’t wait.
If you’d like to find out more about “C” You At The “K” and the groups involved, please visit our Programs page by clicking here.