With two children of their own, FC Dallas defender Ryan Hollingshead and his wife, Taylor, wanted to add to their young family in a way that would align with a desire to help others.
Guided by that faith, last year the couple went through the process to become foster parents. And now, while social distancing at home because of COVID-19, they have also welcomed a 13-month old boy into the young family.
It isn't an easy job. Foster parents are tasked with providing love and care with the knowledge that eventually the children may be reunited with their parents or another family member.
“This is our saying in our house, our saying with our kids, `You can do hard things,'" Hollingshead said. “So even though these things are hard, think of how much harder it is for the foster kid who’s going from house to house and doesn’t have any stability. He doesn’t have his parents. So if it’s hard for us, it’s it’s 10 times harder for him. And so we can do hard things so that a baby can have a safe place to be.”
The Hollingsheads have been caring for the boy for three months. It is their second foster child. Their first, a four-month-old girl, returned to her biological family.
The Hollingsheads hope to eventually adopt, which might happen with the boy they are currently caring for. The biological mother's rights have already been terminated and the father cannot be located. For privacy reasons, the family cannot reveal the name of the child or post photos on social media.
There's always the possibility that they won't be able to adopt the boy. And that's part of the deal: The goal is to keep families together, Hollingshead said.
“I love being a dad. It’s one of the best joys of my life. And so I love having these kids in our home. And so with our baby that we have right now, we’ve had him for three months. And I feel like he’s my baby in every way. I treat him like he’s my baby," he said. "And so, to have to give him back to another family member would just be really hard. And that’s kind of built into the process and something that we know. But it doesn’t make it any easier.”
Hollingshead has always followed his heart.
A standout at UCLA, Hollingshead was named the Pac-12 Player of the Year in 2012, scoring seven goals and eight assists as a senior midfielder. A future in Major League Soccer looked bright.
But Hollingshead instead took some time away from the game to work in a Haitian orphanage with Taylor. He didn't even know FC Dallas drafted with the No. 20 pick in the second round.
He was thrilled at the opportunity, but there was one problem: He had promised his brother Scott he'd help launch a church in Sacramento. To his surprise, FC Dallas said it would wait. The team checked in on him from time to time, and after 10 months his brother said the church was on solid ground and Hollingshead needed to pursue his soccer career.
Hollingshead made his FC Dallas debut in 2014 but his career nearly ended in 2017. During a north Texas ice storm in January, Hollingshead and his wife stopped to help a stranded motorist. Another driver lost control and slid into him, throwing him 35 feet into a guardrail.
He fractured three vertebrae in his cervical spine, but doctors believed he could heal without surgery. Although he had to remain nearly motionless for a time, Hollingshead was able to return in late April.
Last season, Hollingshead started in 33 MLS matches for Dallas, taking turns at six different positions, and led all the league's defenders with six goal and three assists.
Dallas had played two games when MLS suspended the season on March 12 because of the coronavirus pandemic. Many teams, including Dallas, have begun voluntary individual workouts on outdoor practice fields with strict protocols, the first step toward resuming the season.
While Hollingshead is anxious to get back on the field, shelter-in-place has been a blessing in disguise for bonding with the foster baby.
“Being able to get the concentrated time I have with him has been really special, being able to form that bond with him in a time where I usually wouldn’t be able to do so, at least to this extent, to this degree,” he said. “So really grateful for it.”