The day sat heavy on their shoulders. Newly married in 1999, Tim and Kim Hudson dragged behind a full day of rookie responsibilities for the Oakland A’s, such as radio interviews and public appearances. Before returning to their middle-of-the road motel, they settled on Applebee’s for dinner.
“There was a long table of children at the restaurant. You knew these kids were sick. Turns out they were there with the Make-a-Wish Foundation. I sat next to a girl, bald with a puffy face and railroad-track staples across her head,” says Kim, a native of Walton, Ind. “I was scared of saying the wrong thing, so I just asked about her wish, because I knew the organization would do anything within its power to grant it.”
Kim describes her astonishment when the 10-year-old girl said that she wanted to go to Disneyland in southern California, but felt selfish asking because it was so far away. Instead, she asked to go to a Sacramento Kings basketball game, which was practically in her back yard.
“I mean, this girl could have asked for the moon, and if anyone had the right to do so, it was her. But instead, she did the exact opposite. I learned right then, and have had it affirmed many times, that children who are the most sick, the most innocent, are often the most selfless. There are so many worthwhile charities out there, but Tim and I focus on children because they are so innocent,” says Kim. A seed for their future foundation was planted by this brief encounter.
In 2005, the Atlanta Braves brought them closer to home, as the couple had met while attending Auburn University. Before Tim threw his first pitch for the Braves, the Hudsons plugged into the AFLAC Cancer Center. “I would immediately gravitate toward the kids,” says Kim, adding Tim moved to the parents.
“You’d see these kids, and they’d be smiling and so grateful. Then you’d see the agony written all over the parents’ faces. It’s why we chose to put ourselves into that kind of heartbreak; to try to make a difference,” says Tim. “If someone thinks it’s beneficial for me to call or visit a child when he’s sick, I’m glad to do it. But I still laugh if people think I’m a big deal. At some level, we’re all dorks, especially celebrities and professional athletes. I’m just a kid from Phenix City (Ala.).”
The thought of creating a foundation continued to press on Kim, a graduate of Cumberland School of Law and practicing attorney. “We were busy with worthwhile charity work, but we continued to see all kinds of struggles, particularly within families affected by cancer. We witnessed their financial trauma, but couldn’t seem to find organizations which existed to fill the gaps. I couldn’t pretend I wasn’t seeing what I was seeing. Once you’re faced with the burden of knowing, that’s when you have to do something. I just knew if we didn’t do it, it would be the most wrong decision we’ve ever made.”
The timing was suspect. An elbow injury sidelined the star pitcher in 2008, and even his agent cautioned the couple against starting the foundation during a down economy. “But the positives outweighed the negatives. God would make it right and make it work. It’s been great,” says Tim. “I knew it would be okay, because I knew where Kim’s heart was.”
In early 2009, Kim, a self-described Type A personality, completed the typical six-month-application process for a 501(c)(3) in three months. The organization has since hosted three fundraisers. In November 2011, a concert in Auburn featured country singer Luke Bryan and netted some $250,000.
“We try to make it fun. We’ll never have stuffy suit-and-tie events,” says Kim, perhaps alluding to Bryan calling Tim and other Braves players to the Auburn stage while the crowd chanted, “Go Huddy!” A fourth concert is planned for February 2012 in Atlanta with country mega-stars George Strait and Martina McBride.
Even the home they built in Auburn and their farm in Hurtsboro reflect the commitment to helping others. “We didn’t set out to build this great big home or an elaborate cabin at the farm in order to lock our family inside. We built it so we could host families, fundraisers, dinners, and parties for our kids’ athletic teams.” says Kim.
Jenny Hall, director of operations for the foundation, not only loves her job, but also the people for whom she works. “I love that the Hudsons have servants’ hearts. They don’t just talk about doing things. They are people who take action and create positive change,” says Hall, adding she is but a small part of a wonderful mix the Hudsons have created. “My average day consists of answering phones, emails and a multitude of requests ranging from getting a baseball signed for an upcoming auction to helping a family through a crisis. The true challenge is the inability to leave work at work. In truth, it is impossible to do. But as much as it is a challenge, it is the driving force behind the passion for what I do.”
Examples of foundation beneficiaries include a family about to lose their house due to a child with bone cancer. The insurance didn’t cover all of the child’s medication, so the family had to miss mortgage payments in order to help their child. “I contacted the pharmacy, and they would bill us every two weeks to lift the financial burden off that family. We did that for a few months until the secondary insurance kicked in,” says Kim. Other work included rebuilding the field house at Notasulga High School and many anonymous contributions.
The couple also incorporates their children where appropriate: daughters Kennedie, 10, and Tess, 7, and son Kade, 6. “Kids are going to be kids. We try to expose them to foundation activities where appropriate. They go on shopping sprees or participate in things at the farm. Our oldest is a worrier, so we talk a lot about being a friend,” says Tim. “We keep it real in our family. Baseball is daddy’s job. It’s important to have our kids understand we’ve been blessed through baseball and folks need to be lifted up every now and then. Kids have the kind of heart to understand.”
Hall encourages anyone interested in the foundation to visit the website www.hudsonfamilyfoundation.com and learn of the many ways to get involved. From monetary donations to volunteering time, Hall can find a place in which to plug you. Those in need of assistance can also visit the website and send an email requesting help. The foundation prides itself in minimal red tape.
“Charity doesn’t fall on your calendar. It must be deliberate, but it can also happen anywhere. For example, next time you’re in a car line or at the grocery store, look around and find a way to help someone else,” says Kim. “We’re here to identify needs and offer awareness. That’s where it all starts.”