Often, losing a family member leads to new, unexpected paths for those left behind.
That was certainly the case for Steve Duncan, whose brother, Michael “Slim” Duncan passed away in 2010, leaving behind a 10-year-old daughter, Lexi, who he lovingly called his “Princess.” Steve opened up his home and helped raise Lexi until she went on to college.
The Duncans realized, however, that not many children are as fortunate to have the support system they need when losing a parent. To help support bereaved children, they established Slim’s Chance Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to providing counseling services, financial planning and assistance, and sports and recreation for children who have lost a parent and are in need.
Fast forward to 2016, and Steve, having had an extensive background in baseball, was asked by local parents in the Middletown, Del. community to start a travel youth baseball team. One 11-player team soon grew to two teams and 25 total players in the program, and by the following spring, five teams were in place.
The sports and recreation arm of the nonprofit was born, the Slim’s Chance Bulldogs.
By 2022, the program had grown to 20 teams, including two Slim’s Chance Lady Bulldogs softball teams, and had an indoor sports complex in Middletown, Del. for training.
“Our goal has always been to bring excitement and fun to the Bulldogs while offering youth players in the area a place where they can play the game they love,” said Steve. “We also make it about more than just the game. We’re fortunate to have local college players and even some former pros come out and work with the kids, which is huge for them.”
Added Steve, “The Bulldogs program also helps teach kids about resilience, instilling in them the skills needed to succeed no matter what life throws at them, on or off the field. Together, our organizations are always looking for ways to give back to the community, working with our families to participate in causes like Wreaths Across America, Stockings For Soldiers and Treats For Troops, and fundraisers and drives for food banks.”
Meanwhile, in 2021 the local Bear Babe Ruth League took notice of the Duncans’ success in supporting youth sports and were looking for a partner for big plans they had for their fields and cover annual expenses but needed more resources.
“We purchased the property from Bear Babe Ruth through WSFS Bank, which already had the note so that made for a smooth transition,” said Steve. “Then, we got to work to try to realize the original plans. Initially, we had used our personal money to fund this new endeavor but wanted to move to a more equitable approach.”
Steve and Sissy connected with WSFS Bank’s Cathy Turner, who helped them secure funding to purchase fields, start building two new baseball fields as well as address the needs of five additional fields.
“Thanks to our financing with WSFS and a Delaware Edge Grant, we’ve completed two fields and are on our way to completing more. We’re also talking with the county and state government to make this a destination place to bring other teams, leagues and sports in,” said Steve.
The new facility, STATS Tournaments, will soon have a state-of-the-art sign financed by WSFS with a message board visible from U.S. Route 1, keeping travelers, visitors and teams informed of upcoming activities and tournaments.
“This is a labor of love,” said Steve. “Sissy is a huge supporter of my passion for STATS, the Bulldogs and our community, keeping Slim’s memory alive as we build on our organization’s purpose of helping kids. One of my proudest moments came in the fall of 2022. Our program has five baseball players and one softball player who are graduating high school in 2023 and want to continue playing. We were able to connect them with colleges and coaches and all six received offers to play collegiately.”
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