“For the first time in my life, I got to be a kid.” Not something you often hear from a 17-year old. But then again, not many 17-year olds have been through what Tony has endured.
Like many kids in the foster care system, Tony came from an abusive home. His mother, who was only 16 when Tony was born, was a heroin addict who rarely spent time with her children. It fell on Tony’s young shoulders to raise all of his siblings and shield them as best he could from the abuse and neglect that was a common occurrence while growing up. As safety became an undeniable concern, Tony and his siblings were removed from their home.
Not surprisingly given his early upbringing, Tony did poorly in school, was unable to develop normal relationships with his peers and adults, and often got in fights. Eventually Tony was shipped off to a youth correction facility, and from there to a group home.
It wasn’t until he moved in with his current foster mom, 72-year old Sandy, that he experienced real parental love. Assisted by her five-person Fostering Hope volunteer support team, Sandy knew Tony needed real “manly” role models and people who genuinely wanted to help him without asking for something in return. She asked members of her team to spend a little extra time with Tony…”he really is a good kid.”
Two of her volunteers took action and invited Tony to join them with their sons at City Rock, an indoor climbing gym downtown. Tony jumped at the chance and ran around the gym without a care. He climbed, he achieved new heights and he got to spend time with adults who just wanted to let him be a kid. And with the unconditional love and guidance of Sandy and his volunteer team, hopefully Tony will have many more days just like it.