By: Jodi Hale
On June 23, 2007, Stacey Beck received the news that her husband, former Major League Baseball pitcher Rod “Shooter” Beck, had died from cocaine intoxication after a long battle with addiction. Faced with raising their two daughters alone, she focused her energy on the most difficult task ahead: helping their two daughters, Kayla and Kelsey, cope with the devastating effects of not only losing their father, but of the disease that ultimately took his life. Her journey to healing her family would lead her to the founding of PITCH 4 KIDZ, a non-profit organization created to help children impacted by parental substance abuse.
An alarming one in three children in the US is affected by a parent’s addiction, creating a significant impact on the child’s emotional, physical and mental well-being. The overwhelming effects, however, do not end there: without intervention, these children are at a much greater risk for self-medicating to deal with the effects of their childhood trauma, making them more likely to succumb to addiction themselves.
No stranger to their dad’s earlier battles with addiction, Stacey’s and Rod’s daughters were just 8 and 9 years old when they participated in a four-day children’s program at The Betty Ford Center. “Children are intuitive, they notice everything, and they are watching and attempting to make sense of their experiences,” explained Stacey. “They will create a framework to explain their experiences and without true information they are left to create a story.” The valuable tools the girls gained from this program and others fueled Stacey’s desire to create a trauma-focused program in Arizona, one that could heal families and offer children hope.
Stacey returned to school and obtained her degree in counseling. She met fellow student, Shellie Ruge, who had also been impacted by a family member’s addiction. Together, the two women trained in trauma counseling and created curricula designed to help families heal from difficult challenges. “Shellie is a brilliant clinician who brings 25 years of music teaching to the PITCH program and offers children various ways to express difficult emotions,” said Stacey. “She is responsible for creating unique programs and interventions for KIDZ and I am honored to call her my friend.”
PITCH 4 KIDZ opened its doors on June 23, 2010, the third anniversary of Rod Beck’s death. It is the only trauma-focused program in Arizona dedicated to children ages 6-12 who are impacted by parental substance abuse. “I spend a lot of time explaining to parents, clinicians and community leaders the critical necessity of these children having a program of their own, designed to allow them to express and understand their experiences in fun and developmentally appropriate ways,” said Stacey. Children learn to express their uniqueness through music, role play and art, while also learning the importance of separating the disease of addiction from the person they know and love.
PITCH 4 KIDZ has evolved to include more of what Stacey refers to as “trauma informed interventions” designed to help build resilience in children. When asked what the most profound moment for her has been, Stacey replied: “There is one powerful moment, on the first day of every program, when the children begin to talk about their feelings of worry, sadness and confusion about what they have experience, and they realize that there are other kids with similar experiences. We see relief on their faces. The message ‘I am not alone’ is profound and palpable.”
Baseball is still a favorite pastime of Stacey’s and her daughters. Their love of the sport has been a way for the girls to stay connected to their father. “They speak of their dad often, have wonderful memories and love the person he was fully,“ said Stacey. Rod’s former teammates, including Trevor Hoffman, Scott Linebrink and Dusty Baker, amongst many others, have remained a beacon of love and support for Rod’s daughters. “I am not sure that his teammates understand what it has meant in their healing to have them nearby and supportive.”
Stacey measures the progress and success of PITCH 4 KIDZ one child at a time. “Every child who finds their voice, expresses emotions in a healthy way, and understands that despite their parent’s disease, they are loveable and valuable… those are the greatest accomplishments.”
Stacey Beck is a Licensed Professional Counselor and the Executive Director of PITCH 4 KIDZ. Kelsey Beck, now 22 has found her passion in music and singing. Kayla Beck, 23, is beginning a career in sports marketing.
Jodi Hale is an editorial/advertising assistant for North Phoenix Family Magazine as well as a freelance writer. The mother of three amazing boys ages 7, 12 and 14, she has served on the PTA board of their school for more than 7 years, collaborating with teachers, staff and community members to enrich the learning environment for all students through positive and engaging educational experiences. Jodi also volunteers as a public relations specialist for Musical Theatre of Anthem, promoting the theater’s year-round training opportunities and award-winning productions. She loves reading, free-hand drawing, creating props, and raising her boys to embrace life with purpose.