BALTIMORE -- When Angela Showalter was growing up in Nashville, Tenn., it was common to have more than just her sister to share the family's home with on the weekends, as her parents would drive to a nearby foster care shelter on Friday nights -- their two daughters in tow -- to pick up a foster child and provide a little solace.
"I remember there was this young man who would come with everything he owned in a pillowcase, literally everything" Angela said. "We would take him back on Sunday nights, and even as a child, I had this little empty, hollow sad feeling for him because he would go back to this place that looked like an elementary school. Not warm and fuzzy at all.
"It's funny because when you take these kids in, you want to impact their lives, but they end up impacting your life way more than you do theirs."
Talk to those who are around Angela and her husband, Orioles manager Buck Showalter, and there's no denying their influence in the Baltimore community and, more specifically, raising awareness for foster children through the KidsPeace organization. When Showalter took over in the O's dugout in August 2010, Angela wanted to get involved in the area and had the time to give with both of the couple's children off in college. When KidsPeace's name came up, Angela had her daughter do some Internet digging on the 130-year-old charity, and the answer was obvious: she had to help.
"It was perfect timing because we were going to be there, he and I, for a while," said Angela, who started her work with KidsPeace of Maryland during Buck's first full season in 2011. "We have a saying in our house in anything that we would like to do: 'If you are going to focus on something, make sure you are going to put your whole heart in something, not just do it halfway.'"
What exactly have the Showalters done?
They've brought awareness, funds and a renewed sense of purpose to KidsPeace, most recently through the organization's third annual Trick-or-Trot 5K through Canton Square, an event hosted by the Showalters, with outfielder Nick Markakis and his family on hand, as well as various Oriole employees. More than 200 KidsPeace children and families have attended an Orioles game as a guest of the organization, which donated $10,000 to the charity in honor of Showalter's 1,000th career managerial win earlier this year.
The Orioles have also hired some of the KidsPeace children to help with event promotion, with Buck spending time with the volunteers from last year's FanFest and Angela a frequent -- and incredibly popular -- visitor with the children at various events.
"The two of them, their joy is just huge," KidsPeace volunteer coordinator Gina Seyfried said of the Showalters hands-on approach. "All of the Orioles' involvement, it has meant so much to us, on so many levels that aren't even tangible. As far as even staff morale, you really get so much pain and suffering on a daily basis with these kids, the far reach of their impact is huge."
KidsPeace provides residential treatment programs, accredited educational services and a variety of foster care and community-based treatment programs to help people in need overcome challenges and transform their lives. The private charity provides emotional and physical health care and educational services in 10 states, as well as the District of Columbia, and adding the Showalters' name to the Maryland branch has helped KidsPeace garner awareness and their in-need youth get some attention.
"The amount of money people are willing to contribute and show support, it really blows you away," Angela said. "You just have to be at the right place, at the right time and hopefully we can take KidsPeace up to the next level.
"Some of the kids [from Fanfest last year] were telling Gina they took them behind the scenes to meet Buck and they were like, 'Miss Gina it was amazing, we were all treated like rock stars.' And that just gives me goosebumps. Just that little bit of extra special attention carries so far with them. Can you imagine the feeling of rejection and lack of feeling of love?"
Currently, KidsPeace estimates there are more than 400,000 children and teens in the foster care system, a number that is growing much quicker than the number of foster parents. The charity also tries to prepare children who have "graduated" from foster care -- by being too old -- and tries to assist them in developing the social, educational and emotional skills for future success. The program is designed to help combat the growing number of incarcerations for foster children with nowhere to turn.
"It's really gone into so many other areas and outreach programs," Seyfried said of the Orioles' support, which has extended beyond the Showalters' initial interest and continues to grow.
"I'm overwhelmed by [Angela and Buck's] purity of heart, their sincerity. It's very inspiring to us too, that shot in the arm that you are on the right track."
To learn more about KidsPeace, and how you can help, visit www.kidspeace.org.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli.