FAIRMONT, W.Va. — Fairmont’s location of NECCO Foster Care hosted a softball tournament titled, “Bats for Kids” that started around 9 a.m. at Windmill Park on Sept. 10.

For the most part, when a child is taken into the foster care system, they go in with all of their belongings in trash bags. It is NECCO Foster Care’s goal to raise enough funds so that they can buy every child in the NECCO system luggage to carry their belongings in. Rather than accepting luggage donations that they do not have room to store in their office, they want the youth to pick out their own luggage so that it is special and individualized to each child.

When talking to Nicci Hawkins, a licensing specialist at NECCO, in a 12 News interview, she said, “they will have a little bit more of an input on what they carry their belongings in if they have to go to a new home. Because that’s already so hard for them, um you know, you’re going into a home that, you know, of strangers and you’re carrying everything in a trash bag so, um, just having something that they know is theirs that they can carry with them every single place that they ever go is a lot more comforting than throwing their belongings in a trash bag and feeling like they’re not important.”

The idea for the tournament came about in a Tuesday morning tactical, that NECCO has every week. They were trying to think of ways to come up with another community event, and Amy Crites mentioned raising money for luggage, since so many children bring their belongings in trash bags. Crites and Tabby King helped organize the tournament by creating rosters and setting the teams up.

This is the first year that NECCO has done a softball tournament, but they will continue it next year in hopes that it will keep growing each year.

Those playing in the tournament paid $200 per team and $20 per person joining a team. They also took donations from people who did not want to play, until the tournament ended around 6 p.m. Ten teams were involved in the tournament that took place on Saturday.

NECCO Foster Care‘s mission is to build families. They focus on the children, in which they are the number priority. It was mentioned that there is no perfect foster family, and that any kind of foster parent is needed, because there are children that require different things. NECCO welcomes anybody, because they have so many children that need love and a home.

There were four different community partners set up until 12 p.m. to spread awareness for their organizations. Partners in attendance were Crossroads Foster Care, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA), and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).

According to Nicci Hawkins, there are over 7,000 children currently in West Virginia’s Foster Care systems. 700 of those kids are logged in NECCO’s system.

The need for foster families are huge, and this is why NECCO tries to spread awareness as much as they can. They do events so that they can both, help the kids in their system, and show the need for families. NECCO partners with many different organizations and businesses to help reach different areas and communities.

Hawkins mentioned that there is a lot of misconception regarding foster care and families. She said that individuals wanting to foster a child do not have to be married, own a home, and can be a same-sex couple. These children just need a loving home, and if people can provide that, then NECCO would love for people to reach out to them.

If anyone is interested in becoming a partner of NECCO or a foster parent, they have multiple ways to be contacted, and are always there to help.