Whom do you have to thank for helping ease your transition into the real world?
For most of us, that person is a parent or, at the very least, a relative. When I left for college, my parents outfitted me with mis-matched sheets, fuchsia towels, 1970s Tupperware and more advice than I knew what to do with. I could call home anytime I needed to via a pre-paid calling card and there was never any doubt that I had a support team behind me that would help me should I need it.
At 18, I’m not sure most of us truly appreciated how much our parents or other relatives did for us to help us ease into life as an adult – largely because we expected it. However, I can tell you that my experience, while it felt like the norm, is only a dim dream for the more than 24,000 teens who age out of foster care each year. There are no expectations there – only tenacity and hope.
In October, we began working with New York Times bestselling author, Richard Paul Evans, on The Christmas Box Lifestart Initiative– helping raise awareness and funding around “Lifestart Kits” – essentials these youth need when they transition from foster care to life on their own.
There are no parents to help them. No mis-matched sheets, no calling cards (or cell phones), no one to be there when they need help. It is them and the state transition-to-adult-living caseworkers, who do their best to make sure these kids succeed.
Over the last three months, I’m excited to say, we’ve raised in excess of $50,000 (not including the Operation Kids matching donation) so far toward this program – through primarily $25, $50, and $100 donations. Every dollar is going to provide a kit to a youth to help ease the transition to life on his or her own.
One of the youth who received a Lifestart kit this past year tells donors:
“I can’t believe there are so many people out there who don’t even know me, but still want to help me.” (Eddie, 18)
He was stunned by the generosity – that there are so many people out there who want to be that person who eases a teen’s transition into adulthood – much like their own parents did years ago.
Best of all, there is progress. The funds raised to date, while by no means even close to solving the entire problem, are going to allow the program to expand to several new states, and already will help to TRIPLE what the organization was able to do in 2008.
Do you owe your success to someone who gave of their time? money? him or herself? If so, I urge you to pay it forward somehow – through this program or another one. Because for each of us reading this, there is likely another person who helped us as a youth.
And, while I’m at it, thanks mom and dad for giving me a great start.