Socially responsible giving changes lives
She adds, “As Latinos, we know that family is very important. If we don’t do it, they go into the state foster care system. That’s the reason we do it – for love of family.”
She encourages people to donate to the KARE program. “I think the program gives back. It enables older families to mentor new families who come in. The grown kids mentor the new kids. It really does make a difference.”
The gift of caring for another
Angela Luna was getting too old to stay in the foster care system. She also was experiencing bad situations in her life. She was using drugs, fighting with her roommate and finally landed in jail.
That’s when she met Christa Drake, executive director of the In My Shoes program based in Tucson, another program within the Arizona Children’s Association. The program supports youth who age out of the foster care system through one-on-one mentoring, group mentoring and special events. Drake connected with Angela at her job the day after her release from jail.
Their friendship began when Christa told Angela she should be proud of showing up for work.
“Nobody in my life had ever told me they were proud of me before,” Angela says.
Drake helped Angela reconnect with her family. She stood by her when nobody else would.
“Christa once told me that there was nothing I could do or say that would make her turn away,” says Angela. “It’s essential to have someone like that in your life.”
Angela graduated from cosmetology school and got her cosmetologist’s license. She believes that her life would have worsened if Drake had not believed in her. That faith was the gift of hope she needed to straighten out her life, she says.
With more than 40 programs and services across the state, Arizona’s Children Association can be the difference between a future filled with hope and one filled with despair for many children and their families. Visit arizonaschildren.org to learn more.
Ryan House: Haven of hope
Another worthy cause to donate to is Ryan House, a nonprofit organization that offers compassionate counseling services to children at risk for early death and their caregiver families.
Ryan House offers pediatric palliative, respite, end-of-life and bereavement care; for many families it’s a haven of hope. The people that fill its rooms and the hearts of its staff have many positive stories to share about Ryan House and the people whose lives it has touched.
Born 21 months apart, both Soliz and Camilia have a rare chromosomal syndrome called Wolf-Hirchhorn Syndrome. They are both considered to be “deafblind” – visually and hearing impaired and need hearing aids and glasses. Both children also are prone to seizures.
With these extreme limitations, both required almost 24/7 care. The constant care resulted in near exhaustion for their parents, Heather and Andre. Time off spent at Ryan’s House renewed their energy and their hope.
“Ryan House has become a huge factor for us, someone to count on,” says Heather.
“After our first weekend we felt renewed … we felt like we had been on a two-week vacation. Ryan House allows us to rest and reconnect with each other.”
“I wish I could convey to other families how important total respite is, not just for me as a mom but for Andre and me as a couple. If we don’t take this break, we can’t give our family what they need and deserve.”
“It’s such a precious resource,” Andre says. “It’s humbling that there is a community that donates its time and money to help us. I’m really grateful.”
Another story unfolding at Ryan House is that of Mikaela Magdaleno, the bravest little girl you’ll ever meet. Born with a severe heart defect, pulmonary atresia and one kidney, she needs around-the-clock care.
“I thought respite was like hospice, but the first thing we noticed was Ryan House felt like home,” said Melody, Mikaela’s mother.
“During our tour, our jaws dropped; it was like a resort! I was never more nervous than the day we booked our first stay, but, within days, we booked a second visit,” she says. “Ryan House gives me time to rest and her brother, Jovani, time to shine. He loves the Playstation and all the attention he receives and so desperately needs.”
“We will be forever grateful,” Melody adds.