June 21, 2019

Challenging time leads to greatest gift for the family of Colts’ Chris Ballard

Indianapolis Colts’ general manager Chris Ballard shares the story of “the greatest feeling” in his life with the audience of the Catholic Business Exchange in Indianapolis on May 17. (Photo Credit: Denis Ryan Kelly Jr.)

Indianapolis Colts’ general manager Chris Ballard shares the story of “the greatest feeling” in his life with the audience of the Catholic Business Exchange in Indianapolis on May 17. (Photo Credit: Denis Ryan Kelly Jr.)

By John Shaughnessy

Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard wiped away his tears as he shared the story of “the greatest feeling I’ve ever had”—a moment he has described as better than winning the Super Bowl.

Ballard’s story begins in the summer of 2010 when he was part of the staff of the Chicago Bears. In the midst of training camp, he received a stunning phone call from his wife Kristin.

She told him that Child Protective Services in Texas had removed his cousin’s four small daughters from her custody, and “the state has placed them with you.”

A father of three at the time, Ballard told his wife he was returning immediately to their home in Houston.

“I get home and we have four girls who have been homeless, living in a crack house, who are scared. And we’re trying to make decisions on how we’re going to move forward,” Ballard told the audience of the Catholic Business Exchange in Indianapolis on May 17.

It was the kind of moment that Ballard’s friend and spiritual advisor Father Norbert Maduzia had told him about when Ballard was in the process of being received into the full communion of the Church.

“He always used to tell me, ‘Chris, things are not always going to go your way. You’re going to have to make some really hard decisions in life, and God is always going to be your guiding light for that.’ ”

Trying to decide the best future for the four girls, Ballard turned to Father Norbert again, asking, “What do we do? I’ve gone from three to seven kids in the matter of one day. And God has placed this on us. I don’t know how to handle this.”

The situation turned even darker and more complex in the days ahead.

“Foster care got involved, and because we weren’t foster-certified, we had to put all of them in foster care,” Ballard continued. “Well, you look into the eyes of four young girls and tell them you can’t live with us, you got to go into foster care, that’s a pretty humbling thing.

“At that point, I told my wife, ‘Look, God, for whatever reason, put these girls into our lives. We’re going to do the right thing here.’

“Going forward, we’re visiting with Father Norbert, and he’s telling us, ‘Do what’s on your heart, follow God, and do the right thing.’ At that moment, I learned more about the faith, in believing and trusting.”

Within three months, the Ballards became certified to provide foster care. Still, that effort didn’t lead to having their hope fulfilled. The foster care program told the couple they could only take the two youngest girls, the ones “who need the most help.”

“We have to tell the oldest ones you have to stay in foster care,” Ballard told the audience. At the same time, the Ballards made sure the two older children were able to visit them every two weeks.

The decisive moment in the situation came a year later in a courtroom.

There, proceedings were about to begin on the difficult process of terminating the rights of the mother to the four girls. Before the proceedings happened, Kristin and the mother went into a room together. When they came out, Kristin shared the news that Ballard’s cousin had willingly given up the rights to her children for their benefit.

“It was the greatest feeling I’ve ever had,” Ballard said, wiping away tears. “It was the biggest blessing I ever had.

“We tried to figure out how we’re going to adopt four girls. Not easy. So we prayed on it. The next thing you know, a cousin that’s on the other side of the family—they can’t have children, they’re both attorneys, they’re good people—they say, ‘Look, we want to adopt two of the girls, and we want you to adopt the other two.’ That was a blessing from God.”

The Ballards adopted Sunnie and Rainn to add to their family of Cole, Cash and Kierstyn. The two oldest girls, Skylar and Angel, come to visit the Ballards every year, staying for about a month.

“They’re doing great,” he noted.

So is the Ballard family.

“Our faith in God got us through a very difficult time,” Ballard said. “I’ll never forget Father Norbert telling us, ‘Chris, [God’s] going to bless you 10 times over for this.’ And he has. I’m very humbled and blessed and thankful.”

The entire experience has helped shape his family’s approach to life.

“Any time there is darkness, I’m telling you there is always light. There’s got to be a guiding force for you. And for us, for my family, it’s always been God.” †

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