As a group of fun-loving youngsters had their Operation Breakthrough T-shirts signed by members of the Kansas City Chiefs at Lunar Bowl, Sister Berta and Sister Carita were bowled over by the fact that this nostalgic moment would be their final association with the NFL team that has helped them raise consciousness and money over the past four years.

As a group of fun-loving youngsters had their Operation Breakthrough T-shirts signed by members of the Kansas City Chiefs at Lunar Bowl, Sister Berta and Sister Carita were bowled over by the fact that this nostalgic moment would be their final association with the NFL team that has helped them raise consciousness and money over the past four years.
“This is a bittersweet night for me and Sister Berta,” said Sister Carita, who along with Sister Berta founded Operation Breakthrough 38 years ago at 31st and Paseo in downtown Kansas City.
“Our association with the Chiefs will end this year. They select a local charity and help support it for four years – then, they move on to help another charity. You know, Coach (Dick) Vermeil’s wife, Carol, volunteered at Operation Breakthrough, and that’s how we became associated with the Chiefs.
“The Chiefs have been very good to us, and we’ll miss them. But we’ll get ’em back in four years. I know they have enjoyed their association with us, too.”
Operation Breakthrough is a not-for-profit corporation that began in 1971 as a response to requests from parents in the inner city for quality child care for children of the working poor.
“Did you know that if a working, single mom makes more than $8 an hour, she doesn’t qualify for help from Operation Breakthrough?” asked Sister Berta. “We have mothers and children living in their cars, because the mom makes more than $8 an hour. You can’t raise a family on $8 an hour, that’s why we opened our doors – to help those families who are willing to help themselves.”
The program began with 50 infants, toddlers and preschoolers. In 1976, it expanded to include before- and after-school care. The Center moved to its current location at 31st and Troost in 1981 and since that time, it has added a broad range of social services to meet the needs of the children and their families.
In 2006, Operation Breakthrough completed an expansion and renovation project that doubled the size of the facility and increased its licensed capacity from 353 children to 674 – ages 6 weeks to 18 years.
“We have 674 children, and 600 more on a waiting list,” Sister Carita said. “We want to do the best with what we have.”
The children who attended Tuesday night’s bowling party participated in a reading incentive program in which they read books and then had to pass a computer test.
“If they can read, they can succeed,” Sister Berta said. “We want them to know how to read and to be able to comprehend what they read.”
They can also lay down some smack talk – just ask Chiefs tight end John Paul Fuschi.
“I was challenged by Deontre (Harris),” said Fuschi, a free-agent acquisition who played with Oakland last season. “He said he can beat me. And you know what? He probably can. I’m a terrible bowler.”
When asked about the challenge, a grinning Deontre said, “That will be the best thing about tonight. Beating a Chief in bowling. I can tell everyone about that.”
The 14-year-old is also willing to tell everyone about Sister Berta and Sister Carita.
“They love me, and I love them,” Deontre said. “I’m here tonight because they told me how important it is to read books. I read them, and really liked reading them.”
Cierra Moore, 11, and Dajuan Hindsman, 11, were bowling with Chiefs defensive back Khayyan Burns, and loving every minute of it.
“Can you believe it? Here I am at a table with all these beautiful young girls,” Burns said as the girls chuckled and grinned. “It wasn’t that long ago that I was in the same place as these kids. That’s the beauty of being a pro athlete. We can tell them where we came from and give them some encouraging words.”
Moore has been a part of Operation Breakthrough for the past year. Hindsman has been with Sister Berta and Sister Carita for 11 years.
“Operation Breakthrough changed my life,” Hindsman said. “I don’t know where I’d be without Operation Breakthrough. It’s been a big part of my life.”
Moore agreed, adding, “Operation Breakthrough helps us get to go to fun events like this and a Chiefs game. And we know everyone at Operation Breakthrough really cares about us.”
No one in the history of the Chiefs knows more about caring and giving than future Hall of Fame lineman Will Shields, whose foundation has raised millions of dollars throughout his playing days with the team.
“When I came to the Chiefs,” said Shields, who retired following the 2006 season, “Kansas City embraced me and my family. Now, I want to give something back.”
That is why he joined many of the players who attended the bowling and pizza party.
“You see these great young kids in this atmosphere and you just see them as kids having a great time,” Shields said. “They have some problems, but they are probably as strong as anyone I’ve met in the Kansas City area.
“We can all learn a lot from these kids. That’s why I enjoy coming to events like this.”
The Chiefs play host to the Arizona Cardinals on Aug. 16, in this year’s charity football game. A portion of the gate from that game will be donated to area charities, including Operation Breakthrough.
“This will probably be the last year we’ll have this party,” said Lunar Bowl owner Garry Cobb, “because the Chiefs will select a new charity. We’ll miss Sister Berta and Sister Carita and the kids, but we want them to know they are always welcome.”