Komets hoping wins help Fort Wayne Children’s Foundation

Fort Wayne Children's Co-Founder Byron Braun, right, poses with former foundation Vice Chairman Blake Poindexter. (Courtesy photo)

When Shane Albahrani left his previous position at AdLab to become the Fort Wayne Komets’ radio announcer, he brought something special with him. For several years Albahrani had designed programs and flyers and developed some video presentations for the Fort Wayne Children’s Foundation.

“While producing these I learned all about the foundation and what wonderful work they were doing,” Albahrani said. “So when I can over to the team full-time, I saw the opportunity to give the foundation more exposure and help raise funds to help the children in our community.”

Albahrani and the Komets started a new program this season at https://pledgeit.org/fwkomets where fans can pledge money for each game the team wins this regular season. The money all goes to the Fort Wayne Children’s Foundation.

It sure sounds wonderful, but is it legit? What exactly is the Fort Wayne Children’s Foundation?

The public foundation has actually been around since 1994 and has been gradually growing to fulfill its mission to serve Allen, Whitley, Huntington, Wells, Adams, Noble and DeKalb counties by raising funds and working with agencies dedicated to the prevention of child abuse. It was formed by Byron Braun, president of Braun Wealth Management Group, and his friend James Cox of Cox Chiropractic Medicine.

“We wanted to do something different, wanted it to have teeth and last forever,” Braun explained. “This was before the days when people would even talk about child abuse. I’m not even sure how we got onto child abuse specifically, but we felt it was not being addressed.

“This is an analogy, but I’m a softy for people or animals who just so happen to get caught in the crossfire and they didn’t do a darn thing. I’m a softy for that. The more you get into this and look at the economic and social impact, it’s probably one of the biggest threats in our society.”

The started gradually raising funds by asking personal friends to donate, and then they hosted annual charity events that featured celebrities such as Ice T, Joe Scarborough, NBC’s Chris Hanson, Rich Little and Bill Engvall. Then they switched it up by hosting the Summit City Chef competition for seven years.

Then they started to get major donations, and their foundation assets currently include more than $800,000, and the Children’s Foundation provides annual grants from the interest for SCAN, the Boys and Girls Club of Fort Wayne, the Boys and Girls Club of Wells County, Parkview Foundation, Vincent’s Village and Whitington Homes. This year they are also adding SAFE of Adams County.

“All of these agencies embrace our mission to help prevent child abuse,” Braun aid. “We want to break the cycle. If you are an abused child, you have a higher tendency to become an abuser. If we can break that, that’s what we’re all about. What the agencies that we fund do is either provide services and therapy for the victim and/or get the bad people off the streaks or out of the system somehow.”

As an example, board member and Wells County Community Corrections Department Director Blake Poindexter was also president of the Wells County Boys and Girls Club. He looked for several years for a curriculum or program that would help the Boys and Girls Club train its personnel to help understand, recognize and educate its clients about child abuse Eventually, he designed his own program, called CARE for Children’s Awareness Response and Empowerment.

The program has been operating at the Wells County Boys and Girls Club for four years and has helped more than 400 children, according to Executive Director Vicky Bell.

“Our kids know the proper definition of abuse, and 97 percent of them can tell you what abuse is,” Bell said. “When we started in 2014, only 13 percent could. This is an awesome program!”

Besides children, parents, teachers and school counselors also participate in the program, which has expanded to include a Date Smart program.

The Fort Wayne Boys and Girls Club has used the program to education children on things such as how to address molestation, physical abuse, neglect and bullying.

“It’s all about making sure children are aware of child abuse and making sure they are armed with the understanding of what abuse is and what it looks like,” said Fort Wayne Boys and Girls Club President Joe Jordan. “It’s about keeping kids safe and allowing them to understand they have rights just like adults. I had older brothers and sisters and they told me what was appropriate and inappropriate. A lot of kids we work with don’t have that kind of guidance and they are not aware of what abuse is.”

The ultimate goal is to see CARE pushed to a regional and then to a national level by the Boys and Girls Clubs.

And that’s part of the reason why the Komets and the Fort Wayne Children’s Foundation are working together this season.

“We wanted to partner up with the right people, and we think the Komets can get us to another level,” Braun said. “They’ve been great for us. Who knows where that relationship is going to take us?”

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