DETROIT – Hope is 12 now.
Her English is sturdy enough to Skype with her friends, Ellen and Clayton Kershaw, who live in Dallas, nearly 9,000 miles away. She lives in Lusaka, Zambia with a woman who brought her in, feeds her, educates her and ensures she takes her HIV medication.
By Christmas, she'll have a place of her own, a place of warmth. A place where she'll have a chance.
This place even will be named for her – Hope's Home.
Ellen, the wife of Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw, met Hope by chance four years ago.
"It's incredible how this feels like a ripple effect," Ellen said Sunday evening. "It wasn't by coincidence I met Hope. She is such a beacon of hope, and shares a story with millions of other orphans. When we asked what more we could do, someone like Roberto Clemente showed us how he was able to do incredible things with his platform."
Prior to Game 4 of the World Series, Clayton Kershaw was named recipient of the Roberto Clemente Award, which honors a ballplayer who honors those other than himself. Like Clemente did. Standing near Clayton, Ellen smiled brightly. They'd shared this, she and Clayton and Hope, and now Hope and many other African children will share the orphanage built by Kershaw's Challenge.
In a media conference in which he sat between commissioner Bud Selig and Clemente's widow, Vera, Clayton gazed into Ellen's eyes.
"Ellen," he said, "thank you … She did a whole lot for this."
His voice broke. His eyes reddened. He paused for a moment.
"It just means a lot," he continued. "So thank you very much."
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Hope had become a structure, a symbol, a place with clean rooms and fresh food and, some day, some farmland and a chicken coop. It is located on a corner where one ripple merges with the next. When they return to Lusaka in January, the Kershaws will bring some two-dozen friends and family, so they can share, too.
"It's emotional to see it," Ellen said. "I don't even know if I can put into words what all this means to us."
They flew Sunday from Dallas to Detroit, then attended the Seahawks-Lions game across the street from Comerica Park, at Ford Field. Clayton attended high school with Matthew Stafford, the Lions quarterback. ("Still the same," Clayton said of Stafford. "Same arm.") Two hours before the first pitch of Game 4, the Kershaws mingled in a room with the Clemente family. They took pictures with the Clemente trophy, which will reside in Clayton's home office, in a place beside his 2011 NL Cy Young Award.
"It's just really fulfilling," Clayton said, "to see the fruits of all the labor. It started with Ellen going over and meeting Hope, and this is a testament to her passion. Not a day goes by that somebody somewhere doesn't ask me about it. I talk more about Africa than I do baseball. People care, which is awesome.
"This is the most meaningful thing I could ever possibly win."
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