Around 2 p.m., foster mom Lisa Moore ushered five children from inside her home to the front yard to play. In the adjacent parking lot a black truck had just rolled to a stop. In the truck bed was a basketball goal.
In the next hour and a half, the children would discard their hula hoops, foam balls and roller blades to shoot hoops on the new goal — but they didn’t know it yet.
Three of the five were foster children in the Eagle Ridge Institute’s therapeutic foster care system, which had connected them with J.J. Gourley, a new deacon at Westminster Presbyterian Church. Gourley, with the help of the other deacons, donated the basketball goal to the children, one of whom aspires to be in the NBA.
First they played with soft foam footballs, tossing them back and forth to each other. It was about 100 degrees, but it didn’t seem to faze the children, who, dressed in vibrant clothing, looked like blurs of energy bouncing around in the yard.
It was a different story for the adults, most of whom sat on the concrete steps leading up to Moore’s porch.
“They’re going to sleep well tonight,” said Lauren DeBose, Eagle Ridge Institute therapist.
Children in the therapeutic foster care system require a higher level of care than regular foster children, said Amy Corrick, Eagle Ridge Institute’s director of therapeutic foster care. As Corrick stood in the shade beneath a tree in the front yard, she explained that many of the children in the program have dealt with situations like abuse and neglect, mental health issues or medication issues.
Because these children have special needs, prospective foster parents must be trained to foster the children, Corrick said.
“These families are awesome,” she said. “They have to go through the wringer to be qualified.”
A chronic problem with the foster care system is that there are too many children and not enough families to take them. That problem is intensified whenever the children have special needs, like the ones in Eagle Ridge’s therapeutic foster care.
In the parking lot, Lee Cosby, Eagle Ridge Institute community resource coordinator, and Gourley were assembling the basketball goal next to the truck. From Moore’s front yard, you could see the top of the goal, not yet adorned with its red hoop.
The new basketball goal was the third in a series of makeshift predecessors at Moore’s house. First there had been a laundry basket.
“And then it sort of got destroyed,” Moore said.
The second was a yellow hula-hoop that was stuck in a tree near the porch.
“We were wondering, is this your current basketball goal?” Lee said when he first arrived, gesturing to the hoop.
“My daughter sort of stuck it up there, and we said it works,” Moore said. “So yes, we’ve been using it.”
By 3 p.m., two of the children had moved from playing in the front yard to the parking lot near the goal, bouncing a tennis ball and riding scooters while keeping a close eye on the construction.
Around 3:20 p.m., Cosby and Gourley wheeled the goal from the parking lot, down Moore’s driveway, to its resting place in front of the garage.
The children took off around the house as soon as they saw the basketball goal coming their way. Basketballs were distributed, and they were ready to play. There was only one thing holding them back — Gourley needed to fill the bottom of the goal with water so it wouldn’t tip over.
In the meantime, the children practiced their dribbling with new colorful basketballs — one blue and yellow, one orange and white, and one black and green.
Eventually, two soccer balls were brought out so each child would have a ball.
They were shooting by 3:30 p.m. and smiling — so widely you could see where they were missing teeth.
Gourley said he bought the goal with money from the church’s deacons fund, which consists of donations from church members.
How to help
Foster parent information
If you’re interested in becoming a therapeutic foster parent, call Eagle Ridge Institute at 840-1359 or email acorrick@