Far Beyond Baseball
As we wish St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright a speedy recovery from an injury sustained during spring training, we take a look back at Jillian Thomadsen's story from our September 2016 archives featuring the Wainwrights and how they want to answer prayers for those in need.
Adam Wainwright has much more on his mind than earned-run averages, league standings, wild-card playoffs, and pennant races. In 2014, he and his wife launched the Adam and Jenny Wainwright Family Foundation.
“We definitely wanted to give back,” Jenny says. “It took us a little while to figure out what our passions were going to be and we were both inspired by the Matthew 25:35 Bible verse:
‘I was hungry and you gave me something to eat.
I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink.
I was a stranger and you took me into your home.’
“Our Foundation focuses on meeting basic needs,” she says. “And we knew we wanted to do that and we heard that verse. These were the things that we felt most passionately about: Helping others with water, food, and shelter.”
Since its inauguration, the Foundation has worked to improve living conditions in communities as near as St. Louis and as far away as Africa and South America.
“[We get involved] anywhere there’s a need,” Jenny says. “We work with Operation Food Search here in St. Louis. We have helped partner with Water Missions and several other countries overseas where they don't have clean water. Adam helped build latrines in Honduras a couple of years ago. Locally and abroad, our goal is to do things both places because there's so much need everywhere.”
Last summer, St. Louis-based Crisis Aid International asked the Wainwrights and other donors to help 800 severely malnourished East African children.
“We have an ongoing feeding program in East Africa for 1,200 families,” says Pat Bradley, co-founder of Crisis Aid. “In July 2015, we started another feeding program for 800 children who were days from death. The situation for these children was so dire that we had to respond as quickly as we could.”
The Wainwrights helped provide the means for Crisis Aid to serve the starving children Plumpy’Nut, a peanut-based paste described by Bradley as a “miracle product.” As a result, nearly all of them survived.
“Adam and Jenny have been incredibly good to us,” Bradley says. “And without them telling others about the work we do, we would not be able to help as many children.”
The Wainwrights have four daughters ranging in age from 2 years old to 11. Jenny is committed to passing down the values that she and Adam hold dear: faith and charity.
“My girls would like to be a little bit more involved,” Jenny says. “My oldest two are begging to go on a mission trip with us and we're going to try to make that happen soon. [Recently] we took them to the Operation Food Search here in St. Louis and they packed boxes. At Christmas time, we do Operation Shoebox, where you get a shoebox and you fill it with toys and you send it to a kid in need. They love doing that.”
Mission trips are an important element of the Foundation’s work. In January 2014, Adam and Jenny traveled to Haiti to get a close look at an orphanage their Foundation had aided. She describes the trip as “life-changing."
“It was the first time that we’d ever actually gotten to see any of these big projects that we’ve been a part of,” she says. “I just don’t think that anything prepares you for coming into that kind of environment and knowing that they don’t get to go home in three days. They’re living in these kinds of conditions with no clean water. But, also, on the positive side, seeing the orphanage, and seeing that these kids are being taken care of—and knowing we had a little bit of a hand in doing that.”
The Wainwrights live in St. Louis during the season and in their hometown, St. Simons Island, Georgia, from October through March. Although Jenny acknowledges “deep roots” for both of them in their hometown, she has a soft spot for St. Louis.
“We love it here. I always say we should stay here for the off-season. Once Adam is retired, I’ll be really sad if we don't come back for at least part of the time.”