30 Wishes 30 Cities 30 Days - Our Journey Into Foster Care
It's been 4 full days since we returned from our journey. Turns out we didn't travel the 4,100 miles we had expected; we traveled over 5,700. When Nick and I returned the RV we were both amazed at that number...5,700 miles - that is almost coast to coast and back.
What is most incredible about that number is that it's not the most astonishing one. Consider the number of people who came out to support our mission, and more importantly, show their love for children in foster care. At each stop, in all 30 cities, we were overwhelmed with how many people wanted to speak to us about their commitment to kids in foster care, the number of years in their lives they have dedicated to showing children in crisis that they are supported, loved, treasured. We met people of all ages, races, religions, sexual orientation and political preference who all echoed the same sentiment: It truly takes a village to raise a child and we are honored to be part of it.
Since I returned it's been a whirlwind of emotions. First, restlessness. Being so used to getting up and going to a new place every single day and then suddenly going back to "normal"; cleaning up after the kids, food shopping, going to the bank. Next, confusion. What used to feel so safe and familiar, regardless of perfect or right, felt a bit strange.
And now, complete and total appreciation and gratitude. The beauty of people who truly love us is that they let us find our own way. They let us try out the uncomfortable, the unfamiliar, the uncertain. The people who really love us don't judge us for who we are or who we think we might be. They simply let us be. The people who truly are meant to be in our lives forever are always waiting for us with open minds, open hearts and open arms.
When I think about that fact and the love I am surrounded with in my life; by my amazing, strong and supportive husband, my beautiful, funny children, my trusting and trustworthy girlfriends, my smart and witty father, my loving mother, my gorgeous, unique sisters and my inspiring coworkers and colleagues, I think about the kids I have met over the past 31 days and every single child in foster care in America and I pray for them. I pray that they will know this kind of support. I pray they will know unconditional love. I pray they can find strength in knowing this kind of love actually exists. I pray that they realize, that even though I have not met them all, I am sincerely and tirelessly fighting for each and every one of them every single day; with an open mind, an open heart and open arms.
NOTE: One Simple Wish is already planning our next journey. If you are interested in having us visit your city, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If it wasn't for Morgan, our amazing Program Coordinator, we quite simply would not be on this tour. I hope that everyone will read this blog entry she wrote because its incredible, she's incredible and it gives a wise and insightful perspective on not only this journey, but what it means to be a family.
Throughout our tour there has been one common thread that has woven our trip together: it takes a village to raise a child. We’ve heard this quote in presentations, from foster children, in casual conversation and we’ve seen it manifest itself not only in the foster care system but also in our tour crew.
On May 13th, Mothers Day, on our way from New Orleans to Austin, Texas I was reading through an essay I had written in college about my mom. I thought it was a fitting day to remind myself of where I came from and who raised me. One of my opening lines was the exact theme we have been seeing over and over. It really does take a village.
As I sat in the RV, tears started rolling down my face, (as they have done many times on this tour) thinking of kids who don’t have that constant support of a family that is theirs. Working with One Simple Wish I have learned a lot about foster care and the children in the “system” but this tour has truly opened my eyes to a whole slew of kids who may never know what a true home feels like.
I know my life and my experiences will never compare to theirs, but I feel like this tour- living in an RV, not around my mom and stepdad, in a new place every day, not really have space or time of my own- I can almost resonate with the uncomfortable feeling of the foster care system. But I’m learning there is hope, there is strength, especially in numbers.
Our crew: the Together We Rise guys, Danielle and her girls, Nick (our fabulous and insightful driver, and Jamie, our constant comedy)- they have become my family, the RV my home away from home and I’m finding excitement in waking up in a new city every morning. We band together for something that is bigger than us, bigger than what we know and we are all determined to do something better.
I like that we’re proactive. I like that we have our ups and downs and that not everything is perfect and planned. Because that’s life- and embracing those uncomfortable moments really make this trip and life the way it is. I have learned that from the kids we’re talking to- never give up, keep going, because there is someone who supports you and who will be better because of you. You have to keep focused on the good, not the bad.
So I really believe it does take a village- whatever that village may be- your biological family, friends you met along the way, a system you’re apart of, or words on a page that keep you going or a song that inspires and calms you. Everyone has their village and it is my sincere hope that One Simple Wish is creating a village for each and every foster child, parent and case worker. And through this tour, and our every day work, I believe we are- and that makes me so proud and hopeful for the things to come.
It's pretty safe to say that everyone on our tour has fallen in love with Missouri -its beautiful landscapes, lovely people and traffic-free highways! We have also all fallen in love with Charles, the 15 year-old boy we met on May 18 in Kansas City. From the moment we arrived, he was all smiles and love.
Charles has been in foster care for 4 years and is legally free for adoption. That means that his parental rights have been severed and he can be adopted by an approved family at any time. But still he waits in the system, like more than 100,000 other children in our country.
But even with that sad reality, Charles is anything but sad. He welcomed us to his playground with open arms, warmly hugged my daughters and helped them climb up the ladder to the slide, patiently waiting as they struggled to get their footing.
His arms shake, his speech is slightly slurred and he wears pretty thick glasses. He is small and delicate, but you can tell he's stronger than most.
When the TV crews interviewed Charles about us arriving in Kansas City to grant a wish for him, he spoke enthusiastically about his love for dinosaurs, so much so that Morgan worried he might be disappointed when he discovered that his wish wasn't actually dinosaurs. As soon as he spotted the gift bag, he rushed over, calling to my daughters to join him as he opened his present. And our worries quickly subsided when he smiled broadly and jumped in delight as he pulled out the boxes of Legos we had gotten him.
"Momma, come look at this! Legos!" he shouted to his foster mom. The sheer happiness on his face brought all of us to tears...even Nick!
As I watched him usher my daughters inside to help him open up his new Legos, I thought to myself "how could such a loving, amazing child not have a forever family?" I also thought of calling my husband and begging to add another child to our own family. Charles is the kind of child that makes you want to fill your home with kids. His love is that radiant.
Meeting Charles has officially become my favorite part of this trip. I sincerely hope that by sharing his story we can help him find that one missing piece - a family to call his very own.
If you're interested in finding out more about Charles, please contact us and we will get you in touch with the representing agency asap.
For news coverage on Charles & our visit to Kansas City visit http://www.kshb.com/dpp/news/region_missouri/independence/one-simple-wish-grants-wish-for-charles-in-independence
Our team has been so incredibly blessed to have met Steven Rubalcava. Ever since the day he arrived on our tour, he's had a smile on his face. He is truly one of the kindest, funniest and most helpful people I've personally ever met. And wonderful with kids!!!
Steve is headed back to California this morning, the last of our original Together We Rise crew. Before he left though, he wrote this blog for us to share.
Enjoy! We'll all miss you so much Steveo!
It was April 30th of 2012 when I met my soon to be family for the next few weeks. We all met at a local hang out to have dinner. We were introduced as "the boys from California" so it was only natural that these Jersey natives treated us like Hollywood celebrities. Little did everybody know that we were just a trio of odd balls with the same goal of helping and raising awareness of foster youth.
That night One Simple Wish provided us Cali Boys a room at a local hotel, but to tell you the truth, we didn't get much sleep due to our eager brains racing ready to hit the road.
The next few weeks we bonded, but not in a normal sense of bonding. We bonded through a cause. We bonded through the smiles of granting wishes day in and day out. We didn't know it at the time, but we were changing the lives of these remarkable young adults. We granted wishes to visit the zoo, musical instruments, backpacks, providing scholarships for higher education, and even helped launch a boy's own business, above all, we had given hope. And the best part about it all is that this 303030 program sparked the community to raise awareness and give praise to these forgotten children.
I have been blessed with the opportunity to be a part of this journey and would like to thank Danielle, Morgan, Nick, Jamie, Mia, Lil and the rest of the OSW team for allowing Together We Rise to tour with you. I am excited to continue our partnership in the future. Once again, thank you!
This is Stevo...out!