Since he was young boy, Dan Carter of Palm Bay has been surrounded by people of faith: his own father was a volunteer with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) – and he vividly recalls spending evenings with football players and other athletes from around the county, eating meals together and learning about “the love and messages of Christ,” delivered by youth pastors in the comfort of the family living room.
Established in 1954, FCA focuses on serving local communities in the U.S. and abroad by “engaging, equipping and empowering coaches and athletes to unite, inspire and change the world through the gospel,” according to the organization’s website.
Locally, the FCA established a presence in Brevard in the 1970’s, but it wasn’t until 2004, when Dan took over as area director, that the organization began to establish a real foothold in the community.
Dan was born and raised in Brevard and played football for Palm Bay High School, where he was a three-year letterman and defensive captain on the 2000 6A State Championship team.
After graduation, he attended the University of North Florida and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Education, then on to Jones International University where he earned a Masters degree in Educational Leadership, culminating in a doctoral degree from the University of Central Florida in 2014, also in Educational Leadership.
Returning to his high school Alma Matter, he served as an instructor of History and Law, and as defensive coordinator for varsity football and head track and field coach at Palm Bay High. Following administrative roles as an assistant principal for three years, Dan rethought his game plan and again was drawn to the mission of FCA.
Dan now serves FCA full-time as Regional Director, helping to coordinate “huddles” among a field of 1,200 local coaches and athletes in Brevard, and an additional 3,000 athletes and coaches in Indian River, Martin, St. Lucie, Palm Beach and Okeechobee counties.
“Huddles are gatherings where we come together to share the Gospel through spoken word and song and [where we] offer support and fellowship to our athletes and coaches,” he said.
Among the six counties, Dan estimates that more than 340 huddles are organized annually in a normal (not quarantined) year.
You might say Dan is on the path of his father, in a march towards the Father, as he serves his own five children – as a father.
When he and his wife Kate aren’t scrambling with the daily duties of homeschooling their tribe – son James, 5, and four daughters, Payton 11, Adison 10, Avery 8, and Karis, 3 – they can be found serving other kids as youth ministers at First Baptist Church of Melbourne for 7th and 8th graders, and also as leaders of their church’s life group.
When sports seasons are in full swing, as they again one day will be, Dan rallies his kids to be part of the FCA huddles. The FCA has branched from traditional high school sports, where it originated, to include other sports such as travel teams and localized league sports.
“My ministry is to lead them [all] to the teaching of Jesus and to show them, through example and process, how to help others,” he said.
To that end, his kids take part alongside older athletes, peers and coaches, especially during the summer months when FCA camps are offered for kids in grades 3-8.
Wife Kate assists with coordinating and planning huddles as well, making for an encompassing family tradition that very likely will resonate with his young children the way it did with him.
“I felt called to do more, and I feel so fortunate that I’m able to do this,” he said.
To learn more about the FCA, visit online at https://www.fca.org.
Shawna Lucas (formerly Kelsch) has lived and worked in Brevard county for the past 20 years, serving in a variety of jobs and community service roles. She’s a former food and news reporter for Florida today, and was owner/operator of a marketing company that assisted clients and partners such as the Florida Healthcare Coalition, Blue Cross & Blue Shield Foundation for Florida, The Brevard Health Alliance, and Florida Tech to identify and solve pressing community health issues. She has she has dual bachelors degrees in Journalism and Sociology from the University of Miami, and was an inaugural fellow at the Freedom Forum Diversity Institute at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN.