In 2014, my mother got a call for her first placement for foster care. She was an adorable 4 year old girl. I’ll always remember the heavy sadness she felt coming into a stranger’s home with no familiar faces. Despite that, Laila and I became best friends. I thought I was being a positive role model for her, but little did I know that she was the one playing a huge role in my life and future. Within four months, it was time for Laila to be placed with her aunt and uncle.
On our way to say goodbye to her, my family and I stopped at a Walgreens. Inside the store, I saw an entire aisle dedicated to Valentine’s Day stuffed animals that were 75-80% off. Since we have many children in our families and environment, I knew that I could grab a handful of stuffed animals and find good homes for them. But there was one stuffed animal…A white teddy bear with a brown knit sweater. I said to myself, “This one is for Laila.”
As we entered my mom’s house, there she was on the couch with the biggest, most contagious smile. “Laila, I have a surprise for you!”, I said. Excited, she waited to see what I was pulling out from behind my back. I said in a soft teddy bear voice, “You’re so pretty. You’re so smart. You are going to do great things when you are older.” I have never seen someone smile so big as she replied, “Really, you think so?”. I confirmed, “Yes, and if you ever forget, here is this little teddy bear to remind you.”
That experience has always been in my heart. It made me think about how there are so many children who might never hear something positive like they are loved, talented or amazing. As someone who was in foster care and adopted, I know the impact it can have on one’s life to have someone believe in you and show you that additional opportunities are out there. From that moment, I knew I had to be obedient to the calling that was put upon my life.
One of my favorite quotes by Tim Storey is “Somebody is waiting on the other end of your obedience.” This is why we are moving with our partners to help encourage, equip, and empower youth impacted by foster care through services that promote love, support, and motivation. Since forming the 501(c)3 organization in September 2018, and with the help of our partners and community, not only have we been able to distribute over 300 stuffed animals/blankets with positive messages and host vision board sessions (goal planning), but we have also been able to provide more than 100 free photography sessions to our youth.
On September 7, we are proud to host a free “Back to School” event where Walgreens is generously covering the costs for a free 8×10 for the first 12 school-aged children. Give us a call @ 623-670-2352 to reserve a spot for your child. For more information about our organization and more upcoming events, please visit our website at www.e3az.org.
Founder and Executive Director of E3 AZ Foundation, Inc.