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Springfield family selected as ‘Bananas Foster’ family
Garner family going Bananas
The Garner family from Springfield went “bananas” after being selected to be a Bananas Foster family, or Very Important Bananas for the July 7 Savannah Bananas game. The family was treated to early admission, a tour of the stadium, and a meet-and-greet with Banana players. Pictured from left –acting silly -- are: Hadleigh, age 8; Fen, age 4 (in front); Kristy (mom), Travis, age 15; Jamey (dad), and Lucas, age 13. (Photos by Barbara Augsdorfer/Effingham Herald.)

By Barbara Augsdorfer, Editor for the Effingham Herald

With a name like Savannah Bananas it’s too easy to slip into silly puns. There’s something so appealing about the Bananas. In 2023, midway through their first “Banana Ball” season, the time was ripe for the team and organization to create a community outreach that highlighted something owner Jesse Cole was passionate about: foster families. Jesse and Emily Cole became foster parents to two daughters in 2020.

Introducing Bananas Foster.

But instead of rum-drenched, flaming bananas with warm brown sugar and cinnamon drizzled over vanilla ice cream, Bananas Foster hopes to bring to the limelight the urgent need for families willing to foster or adopt children in foster care.

The program was announced earlier this month, and families can tell their story through the team’s Bananas Foster page.

Being selected as a Bananas Foster family is the Garner’s second brush with fame. The family had parts as extras in Instant Family in 2019. Lucas, who was eight years old at the time, had a more detailed role in the movie.

Kristy and Jamey Garner have been married for 17 years and all four children are what Kristy calls, “halves made whole.” They all have the same biological mother.

Hadleigh Garner and VIB shirt
As a Bananas Foster family, the Garners received special VIB (Very Important Banana) shirts – shown by Hadleigh -- in addition to VIB seating for the game.
The Garners adopted Travis when he was nine months old. A couple of years later, they added Lucas at 11 months old. A few years later they adopted Hadleigh, and finally, Fen.

“He (Jamey) took the call when Hadleigh became available without even asking me,” Kristy recalls. “He said, ‘she’s their little sister,’ so of course I said, ‘yes’.”

Kristy explained they always prayed about adopting the children and added, “We just felt this is what we were lead to do.”

Becoming a Bananas Foster family seemed like a natural next step to Kristy.

“I just gave (the Bananas) a quick, abbreviated version of what we went through (online),” Kristy said. “And they gave us a call.”

“For every Savannah game we want to highlight a local family. We know there are very few in Chatham County,” said Jolie Chabala, program coordinator for Bananas Foster. “So, obviously (we’re) reaching out to other counties highlighting all the foster families that we can.”

During their tour of the stadium, Kristy Garner was able to hug first-base coach Maceo Harrison.

Hadleigh and Mervin the Mustang
Kristy Garner is a counselor at Marlow Elementary. Hadleigh holds “Mervin the Mustang” (the Marlow mascot) on one of the equipment trucks.

“I taught him when he was in the sixth grade at Effingham County Middle School,” she said.

But after all the excitement of being Very Important Bananas, getting a tour, meeting players, and selecting their special seats for the game, July 7’s game against the Florida League All-Stars was rained out.

Foster families interested in possibly being selected as a Bananas Foster Family can tell their story on the web page and click on the “Tell Your Story” tab.