When I was 14-years old, I was placed in the foster care system. A few months later, another foster child arrived. She was also 14 and came in wearing clothing that would have fit a small nine-year-old. I remember seeing her change for bed and noticed reddish-purplish welts on her skin. Her clothing had literally injured her. I made a silent promise to her that day, that when I grew up, I would do something to help children like her and me.
I started “Things of My Very Own, Inc.” out of my home in 2008 in order to bridge the gap between what social service entities were able to provide and what children need. In 2010, we served 5,892 individuals. Now, we are in a 20,000 square foot building, and I’m quite certain that this is going to be a record-breaking year.
This year we decided to create tags that list the specific wishes of children in our area. None of them list the year’s hottest toy. Instead, they list children’s innermost hopes and dreams: ‘A Dad,’ ‘New clothes so I won’t get picked on,’ or something as simple as ‘A comb.’ Perhaps most heart-wrenching was the teen boy who asked for feminine hygiene products for his younger sister, so she wouldn’t have to keep missing school. Every tag is connected to a child who wants to believe that someone in the world cares about their well-being. If we can show them for one moment that someone put their needs ahead of their own, maybe they will finally believe that what they have endured does not need to define who they grow up to be. For many of these children, we are the spark of hope that lights up their otherwise dark world. Many individuals and businesses have already stepped up, asking for tags; and for these children, we hope it is only the beginning.
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