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Draper Journal

Corner Canyon Chargers join Utes in preparing Sunday dinner for foster families

Nov 09, 2021 10:21AM ● By Katherine Weinstein

Volunteers handed out dinners prepared by local athletes to foster families at the Utah Foster Care Sunday dinner event at Draper Park. (Photo courtesy Nikki MacKay/Utah Foster Care)

By Katherine Weinstein | [email protected]

It was a perfect fall evening for eating outside. On Oct. 2, dozens of foster families made their way to Draper Park to enjoy a meal made for them by local athletes. Football players from the University of Utah and Corner Canyon High School prepared Sunday dinner for families affiliated with Utah Foster Care to enjoy in the park or take home.

Chicken parmesan, garlic bread and salad with Creamies for dessert was on the menu. The food was donated by Nicholas and Company and Premium Ice Cream Company. Cultivate Craft Kitchen in Draper provided the cooking space.

"We're cooking all the food up at the restaurant and distributing it," explained Nikki MacKay, director of Foster Family Retention at Utah Foster Care. She is also a co-owner of Cultivate. 

"It all started with Nick Ford," MacKay said. "He wanted to give back to the community so we partnered with him." 

Ford, an offensive lineman for the Utes, was seeking a way to combine his love for cooking with making a difference in the community. "I grew up cooking and I've always cooked for friends," Ford said. He is headed for a career in the NFL and is considering opening his own restaurant some day when he retires from football.

Utah Foster Care also partnered with a nonprofit organization called Athlete Strong for the event. Athlete Strong is composed of current and former collegiate athletes who seek to inspire and strengthen youth and communities through charitable projects. 

Athlete Strong is working with some of the football players at Corner Canyon High School. "They're teaching them that there's more to life than football," MacKay said.

Steven Sylvester, president and founder of Athlete Strong said, "Athletes are role models. They're looked upon to be pillars of the community." He spoke highly of the Corner Canyon players. "These student athletes are amazing," Sylvester said. "We're getting them acclimated to what they're supposed to do." 

This was the second time that Corner Canyon Chargers' receiver Cody Hagen helped prepare dinner for the foster families. "It's really fun. It's nice to get out and help the community," he said.

The Sunday dinners in the park are just one example of the special events that Utah Foster Care organizes for its member families. “We offer support groups and foster parent appreciation events," said Communications Director Deborah Lindner. This past summer foster families enjoyed free nights at Cowabunga Bay. “We also set up ‘Giving Trees’ for families,” Lindner said.

Currently, there are 1,500 families statewide who are affiliated with Utah Foster Care and 2,500 children in foster care.

Kimberly Gerlach, who has been a foster parent for 14 years, attended the dinner with her family and spoke highly of Utah Foster Care. Gerlach and her husband began their foster parenting journey when they agreed to foster the step-granddaughter of a relative. “When we went through the training [at Utah Foster Care] we were so impressed. We were inspired to expand our license,” she said.

The Gerlachs have fostered a total of nine children and have adopted six of them. She spoke of the support she has received from Utah Foster Care as well as from friends and neighbors. “It’s kind of amazing the level of support you get,” Gerlach said. “You might feel like you can’t do it, but you can. People come out of the woodwork to help. It may seem scary, it may seem daunting, but you can do it.”

Utah Foster Care is planning another Sunday dinner during December. For more information about the organization and how to get involved, visit