Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Grapevine fans give early Christmas gift to TYC football team

This story from Sports Illustrated about a remarkable high school football game last month between a Grapevine Faith and the team from TYC's Gainesville unit literally made me weep:

It was Grapevine Faith vs. Gainesville State School and everything about it was upside down. For instance, when Gainesville came out to take the field, the Faith fans made a 40-yard spirit line for them to run through.

Did you hear that? The other team's fans?

They even made a banner for players to crash through at the end. It said, "Go Tornadoes!" Which is also weird, because Faith is the Lions.

It was rivers running uphill and cats petting dogs. More than 200 Faith fans sat on the Gainesville side and kept cheering the Gainesville players on—by name.

The Grapevine Faith coach deserves credit for this astonishing, inspiring event:

This all started when Faith's head coach, Kris Hogan, wanted to do something kind for the Gainesville team. Faith had never played Gainesville, but he already knew the score. After all, Faith was 7-2 going into the game, Gainesville 0-8 with 2 TDs all year. Faith has 70 kids, 11 coaches, the latest equipment and involved parents. Gainesville has a lot of kids with convictions for drugs, assault and robbery—many of whose families had disowned them—wearing seven-year-old shoulder pads and ancient helmets.

So Hogan had this idea. What if half of our fans—for one night only—cheered for the other team? He sent out an email asking the Faithful to do just that. "Here's the message I want you to send:" Hogan wrote. "You are just as valuable as any other person on planet Earth."

Some people were naturally confused. One Faith player walked into Hogan's office and asked, "Coach, why are we doing this?"

And Hogan said, "Imagine if you didn't have a home life. Imagine if everybody had pretty much given up on you. Now imagine what it would mean for hundreds of people to suddenly believe in you."

Next thing you know, the Gainesville Tornadoes were turning around on their bench to see something they never had before. Hundreds of fans. And actual cheerleaders!

"I thought maybe they were confused," said Alex, a Gainesville lineman (only first names are released by the prison). "They started yelling 'DEE-fense!' when their team had the ball. I said, 'What? Why they cheerin' for us?'"

It was a strange experience for boys who most people cross the street to avoid. "We can tell people are a little afraid of us when we come to the games," says Gerald, a lineman who will wind up doing more than three years. "You can see it in their eyes. They're lookin' at us like we're criminals. But these people, they were yellin' for us! By our names!"

Maybe it figures that Gainesville played better than it had all season, scoring the game's last two touchdowns. Of course, this might be because Hogan put his third-string nose guard at safety and his third-string cornerback at defensive end. Still.

After the game, both teams gathered in the middle of the field to pray and that's when Isaiah surprised everybody by asking to lead. "We had no idea what the kid was going to say," remembers Coach Hogan. But Isaiah said this: "Lord, I don't know how this happened, so I don't know how to say thank You, but I never would've known there was so many people in the world that cared about us."

And it was a good thing everybody's heads were bowed because they might've seen Hogan wiping away tears.

Wow. Just ... wow.

Hat tip to TYC Ombudsman Will Harrell for passing this along.

MORE: See earlier coverage from the Waco Tribune Herald.


Anonymous said...

his made me cry too Grits....thanks for posting!

Anonymous said...

Oops, I meant THIS made me cry too Grits.....

Anonymous said...

Now, if we could just get 1/2 of the Texas Legislature to do the same thing ------just for one day!

Anonymous said...


I had this thought the other night after reading all the negatives that seem to be on the blog and newspapers about TYC. So tired of reading some of these post because of the negative stuff people constantly put out there.

My thoughts were , we have so many good things that happens with our kids everyday that maybe you might post a blog topic that is Only about a postive experience one has had with a TYC kid, something good a TYC kid has done. I know all of us have a great story to tell that is positive. Just like this post. It would be just to post your story about an event that you wanted to share with others.

Lets let people see some of the positve that really happens daily in TYC with our kids. We are not all about bad kids, bad adminstrators, bad what ever the flavor of the day is. Maybe the legislator might take a look at our Positve side of TYC for a change instead of our negative side all the time.

It would be a refreshing change and interesting one for those who are seeking some positive in TYC.

Merry Christmas to all

Amerloc said...

Wow. Not sure I dare go read the linked complete story - already wiping tears from my cheeks and snot from my nose.

Thank you for the reminder that there is more to sports than grinding the opponent into the ground.

I'm gonna put a link to this somewhere where more folks will see it than at my place, and where it might help spread the spirit. The empathy. The kinship. The understanding.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I love this. I'm with 8:04 - let's talk about some of the positives for a change. Will, thanks for passing this along, and Grits, thanks for posting this. I know I've experienced many a heartwarming moment with youth at TYC. Now I'm going to sit and think about it for a bit and decide which story I'm going to post...

Anonymous said...

Kudos to Gainesville staff and youth.......BRAVO to the coaching staff and fans of Grapevine Faith.When you work juvenile corrections this is what it is all about - this is the reward - even though it happened in Gainesville we can all share the feelings of pride, empathy and passion.

Good Job - Hats oFF

Wasn't there a similar story abour the Giddings Indians two years ago?I am thinking ESPN Outside the Lines?????

Anonymous said...

Dear Scott,

I left TYC a couple of months ago in October 08 after 12 years of service. In part, I was discouraged that it was becoming more difficult to do the right thing for our kids. I was personally invested in the success of the kids and employees I worked with over the years. I have only checked your site twice in the past couple of months just to give myself a "break" from TYC and related news. I was thrilled to see this story. I can tell you that during my time with TYC, everyday people, volunteers and community members made significant differences in the lives of our kids. This coach really "gets it". Many of the kids in TYC have committed horrible crimes, but it should always be remembered that most have survived unspeakable life circumstances. Many never had someone who believed in them and saw even the slighest potential in them. I am sure his actions will have far reaching effects for the Gainseville and Grapvine students and everyone who was privileged to participate in or witness this. As an aside, I was privileged to work with Will Harrell on several issues to benefit TYC youth. He has taken a lot of unnecessary and ridiculous criticism over the past several months. He is one of the few people I have worked with who has the best interests of the kids at the heart of everything he does. I have tremendous respect for his dedication to these kids. I keep my former TYC co-workers in my prayers and thoughts. The work is so important and it is critical that members of the Texas Legislature and Senate set aside politics and do right by these kids. My best to you and Merry Christmas.

Teresa Stroud

Anonymous said...

Made me cry to - beautiful! Thanks for reminding us that even with all horrible things people do to one another, especially in the institutionalized justice system, there are good people who care and have the courage to act.

Anonymous said...

I already cried reading the story and this chain of comments gives me faith that maybe the bitterness will subside and everyone in TYC will begin to refocus on the beauty of what it means to work each day to help these kids move their lives in a positive direction.

kbp said...

Had to share this with a few friends.

Have a Merry Christmas Scott, and enjoy your family!

Anonymous said...

Very powerful. Faith did a great thing for these youth. Maybe the State politicians could learn a few things from Faith in regards to treatment of staff and youth at TYC.

Anonymous said...

Teresa, I would have to agree with all of what you have said, and I have spoken to Will Harrell myself-he is very approachable and really wants to hear what we say and is helpful, but you too vested alot in the youth and staff at TYC and I am thankful that I had the opportunity to work with you. You helped us alot throughout the years in making sure that what we were doing was for the kids and building the team work that we really need. TYC really lost a great person when you left but we always have a wonderful friend. I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas and when you come to southeast Texas make sure you stop by and visit.

Anonymous said...

I’m vaclempt . This is what I’m talking about. When you’re in a culture like tyc, just having someone appear as though they care is good medicine. Kudos to Grapevine Faith for doing this and the Gainesville people for allowing this to happen.
Happy Holidays
Sheldon tyc#47333

Sam said...

What a wonderful story.

Anonymous said...

My church league basketball team in high school used to play the local state home. It was competitive, but we all knew it was a little closer to normal for the kids in TYC.

Great story.

Anonymous said...

Who won the game?

Anonymous said...

Who won the game?

Anonymous said...

Everyone won this game. What a beautiful story and just proves, children if shown love and the right and wrongs of today's life all just need the same thing in their lives love and guidance.

Now, Legislators listen and loosen up, this is the year to help people and not continue to hurt.

Tell DPS to take their new rules and bury them, we do not need anymore laws and certainly do not need any more hurt in our lives and in the lives of those we love.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Faith, and thank you to the staff at Gainesville for working to make an opportunity for these kids to achieve something positive that they can be proud of.

With all the talk about the negative staff, not much is said about all the staff who volunteer their time outside of work to come back and help these kids. There are lots of them throughout the agency.

Merry Christmas, all, and God bless you! O/S

Anonymous said...

Speaking of above and beyond, word on the street is that Walters and Will Harrel are dressing as Santa and an elf (respectively) and giving out gifts today and tomorrow at Corsicana RTC. They did that at Giddings last year. If anyone can get pictures send 'em around.

Anonymous said...

Verily I say unto you, won't be long before Mack Brown is seen prowling around the GSS campus searching for players to recruit who can help him beat our beloved Red Raiders. 39-33. Great story.


Anonymous said...


Gritsforbreakfast said...

45-35, indeed!

Tech got screwed as badly as Texas by the BCS, Plato, I'll give you that, but they stunk up Norman like a flatulent steer and got lucky on the final play of the game to beat Texas. At the boosters' insistence, they're a team designed for one purpose - to beat the Longhorns - but that makes them too one dimensional to compete with other top teams.

45-35 was the score of the REAL Big XII Championship game, as opposed to the J.V. matchup between two teams Texas beat that sent OU to play Florida.

As for the Tornadoes, perhaps if they could schedule Faith for the final game of the year each year and they made this an annual tradition, it'd be a big incentive for boys in the sports program to behave. TYC has 2,200 kids, mostly boys, which is bigger than many high schools - they should be able to field a decent football team if kids didn't get into disciplinary trouble. But it's hard to compete when you only suit up 14 boys, as the Tornadoes did against Grapevine.

One wonders whether athletics are emphasized as much or as usefully at TYC as they could be. I'm sure I'm not alone in saying I learned many important life lessons through youth sports. I've never looked closely at their youth sports programs, who they compete against, etc. (anybody with more info, please let us know), and the Tornadoes' 0-9 record and short bench make me think either sports aren't a big focus or else disciplinary actions reduce the squad size dramatically over the year. But if it's a good experience and something kids want to do, it'd be a nice carrot to go along with the sticks. And the truth is, among many, many other things kids at TYC need, there are times when it helps to have a good coach.

Merry Christmas, folks.

Anonymous said...

I agree, TYC needs more sports activities and they could even play each other if no one else.

Crtc does have basketball tournments for the kids on campus and the kids enjoy that.

Yes, Mr. Walters and Will Harrell were on campus at CTRC yesterday.
If anyone has not given their time to go out on Christmas Day and help hand out the gifts to the kids, should do so. It is a very rewarding experience. It only takes about a hour and half out of your day. You would be amazed at how the kids get excited to see you on your off time, giving your personal time to them.

Anonymous said...

I want to share this story with all.
This morning at CRTC there was a young lady who USE to be at CRTC! She was visiting a family that mentored her during her stay with us.
This young lady looked wonderful, she was a handful during the time she was on CRTC. She was dressed so nice and had came down to visit her mentors at their home. She had to wait for her mentors to pass out the gifts in the gatehouse as she could not enter. She is going to college and you would have never known that she had ever been in a TYC.
When I say young lady, that is exactly what she has become. She went from troubled youth to success! How proud of her we all were and so amazed at the transformation of out of control child to this college student!

TYC does make a difference in the lives of some of these kids that come thru these doors and that is something that we have all seem to have forgotten with all the negative mess we read and blog about. We got major problems but we major success too!

Anonymous said...

Sports activities can be a big motivator for these kids. Yes, TYC has about 2200 kids, but Gainesville, which is one of the larger schools, has only about 300. So, it is hard to schedule a football team. Basketball, however, is another matter.

Unfortunately, about 12 years ago, we began this politically-driven move to be "more correctional." One famous guy even used that get tough on youth crime to vault himself into the White House. Another prominent politician in the other party, not to be outdone by a Republican, expressed outrage that there were swimming pools at some of the institutions. (Hint, his first name is John.) No one stopped to see how giving kids an opportunity to succeed at a physical challenge - whether it be team sports or learning to swim - might impact recidivism.

Get this, being locked up is punishment. We do need to have control in order to have treatment, but, we need to get beyond the pure punishment aspects, and remember that these are still kids, and we do have a chance of turning at least some of them around. O/S

Anonymous said...

One more thing. Today is the day that we celebrate the time when the Creator of us all broke into time and history, solely because He loves His children - ALL OF US. He befriended crooks, tax collectors, prostitutes and other outcasts; He scolded His disciples for not realizing the importance of children; and He told us that if we want to be His disciples, we need to do the things He did.

Let's take a moment this day to reflect on that as we think about how we treat our children. God bless you all! Old Salty

Anonymous said...

The Grapevine Lions Club hosted a cookout for the Gainesville players, staff and volunteers prior to the game. They also provided a bag of goodies for each of the boys to enjoy after the game.

Anonymous said...

WARNING: Do not feed the trolls

Anonymous said...

And here is the demise of TYC- by the hands of those among it.

This is a thread about people doing wonderful things for kids. At the end of this thread- the whole story is lost and redirected to hate, blame and venom.

This IS NOT ABOUT YOU, it is about the kids. If you can't focus on that- ASK YOURSELF WHY YOU CAN'T. Is the demise of TYC resting in your hands because you can't even go a second or two and recognize something wonderful happening? You just read about people thinking beyond themselves and opening their hearts to these kids and all you can do is vomit up piss and vinegar? You disgust me.

Anonymous said...

Grits, please do us a favor and do not allow anyone the ability to comment on any more TYC threads. Good or bad. It's just to the point of being sickening now. These people are sick in the head. They are diseased and the more you allow them to comment like this and take away from any good TYC may do or recieve, the points will just be lost. These responses are exactly why. Please Grits, for the good of any life left in TYC and any hope for the kids- disable the comments.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I just eliminated about a dozen off topic garbage comments and am ending comments on this string.

In the future, with exceptions at my discretion, I think I'm going to shut off TYC strings after 30 comments. You folks can't seem to behave any longer than that.

To folks at Crockett: You seem to have zero self control so I can't imagine how you supervise kids. For the last time: Complain somewhere else. This isn't about you and I don't want to hear it anymore. Start your own blog and whine there. I'm sure legions of readers will follow.