Clara is the daughter of Amy Taft and Ward Taft, who served in the United States Navy for 20 years as medical support for small teams. The Taft family joined our HOPE family nearly a decade ago after Ward sustained combat-related injuries. Read the story of Clara’s older sister, Bella, to learn more about their experience as military children. As a military kid, softball has always been an escape for Clara – an activity to clear her head, have fun, and focus on the moment. In the words of one of her coaches, “not thinking, just doing.”
When our world came to a halt during the COVID-19 pandemic, that outlet was no longer available for her. Her mom Amy shares, “during COVID, it was tough seeing her lost. She lost her motivation to do almost everything.” While Clara stayed connected with her softball family, she felt like she didn’t have a reason to play. There were no games, no practice, no reason to keep up her skills. About halfway through, her coaches rallied around the girls and started getting them together virtually to keep up the camaraderie and motivation for the sport through virtual activities like drill competitions and plank contests. This revitalized activity, albeit socially distanced, helped Clara come out of her low spot and start preparing for a return to the field. Amy reflects, “It was almost as if softball became her lifeblood that got her through every day of lockdown.”
Anxious to return to a semblance of normalcy and reinvigorate her motivation, Clara jumped at the chance to apply for the New Balance scholarship. Amy shares, “This scholarship helped us get back on the field. The high-level travel teams were literally the only teams playing. Clara tried out for a team and [secured] a spot, but then we had to figure out how to pay for her to play. These funds came at just the right time and allowed her to get back onto the field as quickly as possible. The travel team has given her exposure to many colleges that could potentially offer her a place to play in the future.”
Fast forward to today, Clara is incredibly grateful for the ability to return to the softball field and regain her outlet for escape. In addition, she’s thankful for her team and the support they all gave each other during the tough times. “I think being a good teammate is all about putting others before yourself. You have to show up ready to give 100 percent. Being a teammate also means being supportive to those who are on the field with you. You don’t want to let them down, and you want to make sure they feel supported at the same time. My team is an extension of my family.”
In turn, we are grateful for Clara and her family, and for the resilience they’ve shown despite the curveballs that the past year has thrown. We’re glad you’re a part of our HOPE family!