Wichita Children’s Home teams up with Marshall

Sports Editor

“Runaway call leads to police taking 3 children into protective custody,” “Child drinks bleach at house with trash, feces,” “Bruised boys in protective custody” and “Small child in pajamas found wandering next to street in cold weather” are all headlines someone could read in the Wichita Eagle.

When you hear those headlines, that means another child or teenager has been brought to the Wichita Children’s Home (WCH) for care.

“The vast majority of it never makes the news,” said Laura Kelly, director of community relations and volunteer services and graduate of Wichita State.

This is just one of the reasons men’s head basketball coach Gregg Marshall chose to represent the Wichita Children’s Home in the ESPN Infiniti Coaches’ Charity Challenge, and has done so for two years now. It’s his and his wife Lynn’s favorite charity. Voting for the second round ends Feb. 15.

“Many of them have come from tough situations,” Marshall said. “And unfortunately, they don’t have a lot to draw from.”

The Children’s Home serves about 2,000 children every year, 1,600 of which are admitted through police protective custody. The children are victims of abuse, neglect, abandonment, homelessness and human trafficking.

“People don’t realize these are not ‘somebody else’s kids,’” Kelly said. “They are all our children, the community’s children.”

The Wichita Children’s Home was founded as an orphanage in 1888. Since then, its scope has expanded to four pillars: Emergency Foster Care, Residential Services for Teens, Street Outreach Services (SOS) and Transition to Independent Living program (Bridges).

It serves children — ages 0 to 12, including just born babies — to teenagers.

“Any given day, a dozen a day and perhaps 60 children are in foster care,” Kelly said. “I’ll see a tough-looking kid in tears and it makes me realize everybody needs help.”

Kids come in with only the clothes on their back, Kelly said. The kid are surprised that the water’s warm when they take a shower.

When the kids are ready to leave, the Children’s Home gives them a flannel and fleece blanket and treat bags. The treat bags come with puzzles, books, teddy bears, toothbrushes and clean underwear.

“Want to know what the kids get most excited about?” Kelly asked. “It’s actually the toothbrush and clean underwear.”

Kelly played some audio from a child receiving their treat bag: “I got a new tooth brush — a grown up tooth brush!”

“I think we help save lives, but it’s complicated on how to tell someone that,” Kelly said. “We help take them from that crisis then help them move forward from it.”

The kids get to choose what color or pattern of blanket and bag they want. Kelly said they get excited about having a choice because they’ve never been given a choice before.

“We’re making up for lost time,” she said. “They deserve to believe they can aspire to have a better life.”

Marshall said the kids deserve an opportunity to show they are cared about and loved in the community and a chance to have a successful life.

Marshall’s choice in charity raises awareness for WCH, Kelly said. By raising awareness for the Children’s Home, she said the home raises awareness for the basketball team by making sure the games are always on for the children to watch.

“We think of Gregg Marshall as our coach because he chose us,” Kelly said. “We consider ourselves ‘Marshallville 2.’”

One way to help the Children’s Home is to vote in the Infiniti Coaches’ Charity Challenge.

“It’s the No. 1 thing people could do on campus,” Kelly said. “Vote every day and share on social media. Vote daily and through the end. It reflects well on him, his supporters, alumni and fans.”

If Marshall wins the challenge, the Wichita Children’s Home wins $100,000.

“If we can help make their life easier by showing them some love and compassion and hopefully, winning them $100,000,” Marshall said, “then that’s what we need to do.”

To learn more about the Wichita Children’s Home or to donate, visit wch.org. To vote for Coach Marshall, visit espn.com/infiniti.