What makes loving me so difficult
when all I ask for is a shoulder to cry on,
When I feel like I need to sulk,
a smile for my frown.
When all the happiness in me is gone,
and my world is upside down?
A hug for rainy days
and sunny ones too,
But please don't forget
the most important thing yet —
Yes, just saying those three words,
"I love you."
Tears began to stream down the face of Lisa Kapler as she read a child's poem on the website for Brookwood-Florida, a therapeutic home for abused teenage girls in St. Petersburg.
The site features moving poetry by the residents who find shelter at the home just south of downtown. For Kapler, the Brookwood mission statement explained the purpose, but the personal verses left her enhanced.
"I read most of them and I think when you see or hear the actual words of the children, that's where you get to the heart of what's going on there," said Kapler, the wife of Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Gabe Kapler. "I was crying knowing there are so many children out there who aren't loved."
Many who learn the Brookwood story experience an emotional reaction, but the courageous profiles captured in the poetry resonated with Kapler for a reason: She has battled her own domestic abuse episodes.
As a teenager, Kapler endured a three-year relationship with a boyfriend fraught with physical and mental torture. She came from a home with loving parents, but they were "noncommunicative," and that allowed her to blame black eyes and swollen lips on drill team mishaps and miscellaneous accidents.
Lisa, 34, met Gabe immediately after the abusive relationship, and they've been together for 17 years. Still, the emotional scars remain. When Gabe played for the Red Sox, she revealed her horrific story as the players' wives teamed up to raise funds for a domestic abuse nonprofit.
After discovering the platform that baseball provides, Gabe and Lisa created their own foundation dedicated to stopping domestic violence. She speaks passionately about giving kids, such as those at Brookwood, the needed tools to deal with raw emotions.
Now the Kaplers will serve as honorary chairman and chairwoman for Swanky Soiree, a Sept. 16 fundraiser for Brookwood that will be held at the Signature Place penthouse of Dr. Patrick Sexton. The St. Petersburg event features fine food from top area chefs and fashions from Project Runway contestant Ben Chmura and other designers.
For details and tickets, go to www.swankysoiree.org.
Kapler will sport a specially designed dress, but her thoughts and her heart will be with the girls of Brookwood and the lines of the poem.
"The fact that any child could think they're hard to love is what gets me to the core," Kapler said. "I wish I could look into the eyes of every child and say, 'It's not your fault. You're worthy of love and if you open your heart you'll find it.' "
She says she realizes maybe no one would care about her story if she wasn't the wife of a professional baseball player, but maybe that's the reason Gabe Kapler connected with her in a 12th-grade English class all those years ago.
That's all I'm saying.