Unbreakable bond: Michael Hicks and Bart Darrell have built special relationship since Day 1
Sometimes, life will throw you a curve ball. And, sometimes you can hit one out of the park.
Michael Hicks and Bart Darrell sure did.
Hicks, a former South Warren High School standout and a now-Western Kentucky Hilltopper, had a unique childhood. Hicks grew up being solely raised by his mom, Rose Frank, who served as both his mother and father with his biological dad out of the picture from the start. It was just Rose serving as Hicks’ main guardian from the time he was born until he was nine years old.
Then, one awesome guy stepped into Hicks’ life and changed it for the better.
“I met Bart when I was nine years old and we clicked right away,” Hicks told The Sporting Times. “He has been there for me since we first met always supporting me in anything that I do.”
Darrell – a layer that practiced in Bowling Green before becoming a college president, leader and an all-around good man – who at the time was a good family friend, quickly became more than just that as he and Hicks became strongly attached to each other.
“I met Michael when he was nine years old,” Darrell told The Sporting Times. “His mother introduced me to him. I still remember the first time I saw him; I walked in the front door at their house and I looked over at this recliner and there was a little kid sitting there – and it was Michael.
“I remember seeing a big ‘ole smile.”
Once just a friend of the family, Hicks and Darrell were soon a one-two punch. They began doing everything together, whether it was attending baseball games, going out to have dinner or spending mornings in the car. Hicks thoroughly enjoyed being around Darrell not only because he had fun, but because it also helped out his mom.
“Bart has been God-sent,” Frank told The Sporting Times. “As woman, it can be hard to raise boys – especially when they start to grow up – and we’re fortunate to have Bart in our lives. It’s hard to put into words what he means to us.”
“I’m very blessed to have Bart in my life because it not only changed my life for the better, but it took pressure off of my mom,” Hicks said. “She was the only one raising me at the time because my biological father was never in the picture. My mom was a great mom and dad to me, but Bart has stepped in and has done a great job at being my dad.”
Dad. That’s a pretty strong title for Darrell.
“It’s one of those things that evolved and grew. I didn’t have any kids and I wasn’t married,” Darrell said. “He hasn’t seen or heard from his father seen he was just a few months old. I just started going to his stuff – little league, basketball, school – and it just happened. I had no idea that it’d end up like it is today.”
Darrell officially became Hicks’ father when he adopted him during his senior year of high school. That may have marked when Darrell held the official title of “dad,” but Hicks looked up to him as a father figure way before that as he was always – and still to this day – does anything he can for his son.
“He adopted me my senior year of high school, but he was my dad way before that happened,” Hicks said. “Bart is one of the smartest people that I’ve ever met. He knows a lot. He gives me advice on how to handle hard life decisions or even regular day-to-day choices I have to make. I hate to admit it, but he’s usually always right.”
It all goes back to the morning car rides.
As Rose worked early mornings at the hospital, Darrell began picking Hicks up for school each morning. Once Hicks started attending middle and high school at South Warren, the two started an everyday tradition, which consisted of stopping at the infamous Richpond Market before going to school.
“Michael has always thought of Bart as his dad – and he’s been a great dad,” Frank said. “They have a father-son relationship – and it’s strong.”
The time Hicks and Darrell spent in the car each of those mornings played a significant role in their unbreakable bond, and it was bittersweet when that ritual had to end when Hicks turned 16 and was able to drive on his own.
“I would go over there in the mornings and pick him up for school every day,” Darrell said. “We always had that time in the car for years and years – and I can still remember when he turned 16 and he was taking his driver’s test to get his license. I remember that last day … it was one of the saddest days of my life because I knew that was the last day that I’d ever take him to school.
“Those days in the car every day were really important, and in fact, when I went to (Kentucky Wesleyan) in 2013 – his sophomore year – I wouldn’t have done it if he didn’t say it was OK. That’s how much our relationship has meant to me.”
As Darrell mentioned, he and Hicks’ relationship is so strong that he wanted Hicks’ thoughts on accepting the job as president at Kentucky Wesleyan College – the job Darrell has held since 2013 – before doing so.
Even though he works about an hour away from Bowling Green, Darrell is still in Bowling Green every week to spend time with Hicks, mostly cheering him on at Nick Denes Field for his home baseball games. That’s something that means a lot to Michael.
“It’s awesome that he takes time out of his very busy schedule to come watch me play,” said Hicks. “I can’t thank him enough for that. Bart and I usually catch up at least once a week at dinner and just talk about how things are going.”
Michael’s ‘official’ name is now “Michael Darrell-Hicks” – and he’s perfectly happy with that.
“Michael is the best thing that ever happened to me and her,” Darrell said. “I think I benefit from the relationship more than he does.”
In life, everyone should keep their eyes open for people you need and might need you.