Category: Ministry Blog

Prodigal Father/Son/Daughter (Ministry Blog – For the Love of Kids)

Prodigal Father/Son/Daughter


prod·i·gal; prädəɡəl


  1. spending money or resources freely and recklessly; wastefully extravagant.

  2. having or giving something on a lavish scale.


Everyone knows the story of the prodigal son who asks for his inheritance, and after wasting it he went crawling back to his father, who then welcomes him home. Is this a story about the over indulgent son, or of a father’s unconditional love for his child?


I have been toiling over this blog for a while now. Not knowing where it was going gave me great pains. The truth is, it is a story without an ending; it is a tale that, unfortunately, I hear and see all too often.


This tale started about a year and a half ago when we met a young lady hardened by street life. “M” was smart and witty in a sassy way that I find very endearing.  She had been on her own for several years, now at 16 about to be 17, she felt she needed to turn herself in to CPS to gain some support and financial assistance. “M” had attended school sporadically throughout her life, so graduating from high school was not really an option for her; she spoke of possibly trying for her GED.  “M” had this tough guy attitude, but she always had someone under her wing: she was a protector of the weak within the house. Motherly would be the word used to describe her.  “M” grew up with a drug addicted mother and 2 young siblings. This, I believe, is why she protects and mothers the weak.


The turning point of her opening up and trusting us came when one of the ladies from our ministry set up a day long retreat here at St Patrick’s for the girls from the homes. The retreat was led by our wonderful ministers from Life Teen. I was a bit apprehensive about it but it turned out amazingly well. Shortly after the day retreat, “M “and two other girls attended a full Life Teen retreat. When we picked them up after the Sunday night Mass it was obvious that each of the girls experienced the touch of God’s grace. It was wonderful to hear them discuss their experiences with us over dinner that night.


That spring is when “M” moved into an independent living program. She got a job with a painting company and was signed up for her GED class. Life was good for her, she seemed very happy, and for the first time there was excitement in her voice. Then she stopped calling. Our texts were unanswered. We went by the place where she lived only to find out that she had up and left and no one had any idea where she had gone off to. Her phone was off, no service, and she was gone.


On a Monday night in January, our phone rang. It was “M”. She said she was not in a safe place and needed to find a place to stay, that she was afraid. Homeless, no job, no clothes other than what she had on, she was asking for help. We helped her look for services, we made calls to all the shelters only to find out what she already knew: there was no space available for her anywhere. Thankfully, her cousin took her in; she could sleep there but had to leave during the day. On Saturday we met with her to bring her some donated clothes and take her out for a big breakfast; she was emaciated, a sliver of her former self.  


Over breakfast, “M” filled us in on what she could remember of her missing months. She had moved in with her mother because “mom said she would take care of me”. Only, she fell into the same darkness her mother has been in for her adult life, the comfort of drugs. When the drugs were too much she moved in with a guy 15+ years her senior, only to be bounced out again. “M” had several stints in various jails for things “that were not my fault”. All of that aside, she wanted to get clean, get back into the assistance program for foster youth, and get a job. She said all the right things, and all she was asking was for someone to listen, to be there for support.


We took her to Walmart to purchase an outfit that she could wear to a job interview. We dropped her back at the apartment complex and after long hugs we watched this emaciated young woman with a bag of clothes and a bigger bag of leftovers disappear into the maze of buildings. We met with “M” several times over the following weeks until she disappeared again for a week or so. When we finally saw her, she was wearing an ankle monitor. She had been arrested again. “M” told us she couldn’t go look for a job now because everyone just sees her monitor and would never hire her. It was quite large. Back to Walmart to buy pants that would cover it and hopefully give her the confidence to go get a job.  Back at the apartment complex there were lots of hugs, and smiles… You see, she was going for an interview the next day. “I will call you and let you know how it went”.


That was the last time we saw “M”. She is a lost child, not yet 19. Has she been arrested, gone to jail? Is she safe? Has she gone back into the darkness that enveloped her soul?


We will wait by the phone, watch the road that leads her back, waiting to see her crazy hair and distinct gait as she strolls toward us. We will welcome her back as we will welcome all of the lost children.



We are here for the long haul and we will not go away.

That is what the For the Love of Kids Ministry is about; helping with love in any way we can.

Christmas (Ministry Blog – For the Love of Kids)

Christmas is a time for family and fellowship. It is a time of reflection and remembrance of the miracle of God’s grace. I love Christmas time. You see, I grew up on a Christmas tree farm and Christmas was harvest time, a time to see the joy and laughter as families picked out their perfect tree. On Christmas Eve, our family would gather and have a wonderful meal and exchange gifts. After church on Christmas day we would go to my aunt’s house and the celebrations would continue well into the night with my uncle and cousin leading us in song while playing the piano and guitar. What wonderful memories I have of Christmas, with some old family traditions still part of our Christmas celebration today. What are your family traditions? What are your happy memories of your family Christmas?

To children of brokenness, this is not always the happiest time of year. What if all you wanted for Christmas was to go home, to be with family, but you can’t? It doesn’t matter whether there will be gifts, large meals, or even a warm bed; you just want to be there, not in the home in which you have been placed. For us who have grown up with happiness and joy surrounding Christmas it is very hard to understand the emotions foster children are experiencing, and why some are solemn and angry. Some of the girls we visit this is a time of year are lashing out at each other or at anyone who tries to reach out to them. It is our job to ease their pain, and to try to lighten their burdens.


Jesus said to the crowds:
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

Matthew 11:28-30


This is why we celebrate the joy of Christmas with the children living in group home foster care. We will try to lighten their burden, a burden not of their own making, and brighten up their day.  At our Christmas party we will sing carols of God’s glory, feast on fabulous food, and hand out gifts. The gifts are modest but given with love. All have been donated from either our generous ministers or other wonderful ministries within our parish. The Prayer Shawl Ministry, for example, provided beautiful scarves for each of our girls, and the Delightful Quilters made wonderful quilts for them as well.

For the Love of Kids Ministry would like to thank all of you for your support. We couldn’t do what we do without the incredible parishioners of St Patrick Catholic Community. Thank you for reading this blog and helping to spread the word of the plight of children in foster care. By raising awareness, we can and will make a difference in the lives of children. Merry Christmas and have a happy New Year.

Save the Children (Ministry Blog – For the Love of Kids)

I believe that the mission of For the Love of Kids Ministry is to help children. We focus our efforts on thirty teenage girls in 3 group homes. There are thoughts of having more retreats and educational programs as well as expanding our reach into more homes. When I sit and think of all the areas of engagement I cannot forget that we also hold a certified continuing education programs for foster parents on an annual basis. Our team has been asked to attend a retreat later this month to help educate volunteers, from other churches, on how to create and manage a ministry like ours and how to generate congregational engagement.

In our quest to help children we have focused on children that are in the foster system… But, what if we could help children before they are taken into the foster care system? What if there was a way to help families in need before the children had to be removed? What if we could fix the problem and help in the most basic ways? What if the answer to these questions is yes? — This is why we have partnered with the CarePortal. The CarePortal is a notification system. It notifies churches when there is a need for help. We get the notification of a family in crisis, about to lose their children. If we can help that family by filling that need, we do.

So far we, here at St Patrick, have helped fourteen children stay in their home. We helped keep the family intact. We have delivered beds, bedding, cribs, clothing, and basic needs such as formula and diapers. All of this was donated by wonderful people who have agreed to accept an email notification asking for help when a need arises. I cannot describe the emotional power of a hug or a thank you we have received for a simple act of kindness.

We recently were asked to help out the children’s ward at a hospital:

“We had a need to contain a child that would be unsafe to be left in a crib due to fall risk. (The child had accidentally ingested his parent’s drugs). The staff was exhausted taking turns holding this very active toddler in between caring for other patients. I borrowed a rather run down stroller we have in our NICU for similar situations with infants…. One for our Neonatal intensive care unit and one for our Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.”

I am proud to say that this need, thanks to our CarePortal email recipients, was satisfied within 2hrs! Praise the Lord for such wonderful people!


“Thank you so much Mark and the St. Patrick Catholic For the Love of Kids Ministry! I am proud to be a member of St. Patrick. Your donation will truly make a difference in the lives of many children and nurses at your community hospital. On behalf of the infants, children and staff here at HonorHealth, we thank you and our humbled by your immediate and generous response!”

Maureen Stepanek, LMSW
HonorHealthShea, Women and Children Social Worker

Will you join us? Receive an email. When you do, if you can help, reply. If you cannot, just give a prayer in support of the family in need. Do you want to learn more? We will have a community engagement meeting for the CarePortal on October 25th at 6:30 pm in Fenlon Hospitality Center.

If you have any questions or would like to join the work of this ministry, please email me.


Thank you.

Mark Wheeler

stpatcareportal(Replace this parenthesis with the @ sign)

Discipleship (Ministry Blog – For the Love of Kids)

In a recent homily pastor Fr. Eric Tellez said something that really resonated with me, it caused me to pause and go back to his podcast and listen again. ( You can do the same by following this link: ) Fr. Eric is a masterful orator and his homilies always make me think of how the scriptures flow within my life, and how they relate to the everyday. I have been struggling with results and consistency within our ministry. We all have demons that we battle with on a daily basis and this line from the homily landed a knockout punch to one of mine.

If you are not meeting resistance in your daily life of discipleship then you are not doing it right.” – Fr. Eric

We work with children that, most of the time, have been thrown away by their parents and cast off by society. They are fighting unimaginable demons. So why do we expect results in our time? Why are we projecting our values and expect the same results we had with our own children? These are maimed and guarded children who react according to their own sense of self-preservation, not ours.

As I sat with a 16 year old girl we discussed her parents, or should I say lack of them. Her mother abandoned her as a very young child. She doesn’t remember her. Her father brought her here from California while looking for work. She spoke very openly of the sexual abuse that started once she arrived here and how she was rebuked and cast out when she reported it. As she bounced from couch to couch the abuse continued until the day she was finally taken into CPS custody. She has grandparents back in California who want nothing to do with her because the reports of abuse and neglect were against her sons and they believe that they were all lies. She is cast out, abandoned by all who she thought loved her.

Three years later we have an intelligent young woman looking to graduate high school in 2 years and she has her eyes set on college. So why does she cut herself? Why does she bleed? Demons are chasing, although she is working hard at quieting them. “I haven’t cut for a month now.” Her results and accomplishments are not the same as yours and mine. Her life is a struggle everyday as she tries to keep the demons at bay.

Discipleship is not easy. We cannot turn way. We cannot stop. We must relieve some of the pain of others by accepting it unto ourselves, consoling the wounded, and understanding that their pain is real. Understanding that everyone reacts differently to the pain, we must believe that every touch, whether physical or emotional, counts towards healing. When rejected we must continue on and not let it deter us in our quest to help and heal the unfortunate children in our midst.

“If we don’t suffer in discipleship then we don’t know the truth.” – Fr. Eric

We are here for the long haul and we will not go away.

That is what the For the Love of Kids Ministry is about; helping with love in any way we can.

The “Light” Did Come (Ministry Blog – Catechesis of the Good Shepherd)

The end of the school year is exciting for all children, but in the Atrium there is even more excitement! It is a time when many of the presentations to the children require them to hold lit candles. Yes! It is true. They are shown the proper way to hold them safely and understand that if they are careless, their candle will be snuffed.

Our final Atrium presentation of this year was a presentation on the sacrament of Baptism. The story begins with telling the children how the people of Israel were waiting a long, long time for the Messiah, the Prince of Peace, the Savior, the “Light” to come into the world. One day the “Light” did come. (We light the Paschal Candle.) He was born in a stable and his parents named him Jesus. Mary and Joseph took good care of Jesus. They taught him about the scriptures. They loved him. Jesus grew to be a man and began to share his light with others. But one day, an angry mob arrested Jesus, put him on trial, and then crucified him. The “light” was snuffed out. (The Paschal Candle is blown out). His friends were very, very sad. How could they go on without him. Then on the 3rd day, Jesus rose from the dead. His light was with them again. He continued to share that light with his friends and asked them to share this light with others. Jesus’ light was shared down through the ages. The “light” was shared with our grandparents and our parents, until it finally came to us on the day of our Baptism. At this point, an individual candle is lit from the Paschal candle for each child. We say their name and tell them to receive the Light of Christ. They answer, “Thanks be to God.” Being aware of the fact that one of the girls had not yet been Baptized, I said, “Grace” (not her real name), on the day you will be Baptized, you will receive the “light”, too. She was thrilled with all of it.

Class ended a bit later. The children left with their adults, off to enjoy a wonderful summer. Not long after the final class of the year, I was approached by Grace’s grandma. She told me that Grace was so touched by this presentation, that she is begging to be Baptized. She craves to have the “Light”. The heart-warming ending to this story is that Grace and her family will journey together to receive the light of Christ at the next Easter Vigil, through the Family Initiation program. The Holy Spirit is alive and well at St. Patrick Catholic Community!

– Gerri Porteous
Coordinator of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd & Formation Resources

Summertime (Ministry Blog – For the Love of Kids)

The “dog days” of summer are upon us. It is hot and the air is heavy with the monsoon moisture. Too hot to take the kids to the park so they hang around inside the house until you can’t stand it any longer. You take them to the local mall to walk around with their friends. Instead of picking up just your kids, you end up with a car full and they all come over to “hang out” in your pool or in front of your TV eating everything in sight. Sound familiar?


Now imagine you had 10 kids all between the ages of 12 and 18, who are not family and don’t even truly like each other and some of the older ones work part time but the rest are home all the time. You can’t drop them off at the mall and it is too hot for the park. What do you do to entertain them? How do you keep them from getting on each other’s nerves and fighting all the time?


Thankfully, there are many wonderful organizations we partner with, that offer support to kids in group home foster care. One of the wonderful organizations is OCJ Kids (Opportunity Community and Justice for Kids). OCJ runs an overnight cowboy camp that is a wonderful two-day event throughout the months of June and July. All of the group homes in Arizona have the opportunity for their kids to have an amazing experience where they play cowboy games, go horseback riding, have campfires and, most importantly, escape the confines of the house. For more information or to donate, visit their web site


Another wonderful partner of ours is Arizona Friends of Foster Children Foundation (AFFC). If there is a need, they help fulfill it. For example, one of our girls in one of the homes wanted to go to a flag football camp. The camp cost of $350.00 for the week long camp, It seemed out of the question until we contacted the AFFC Foundation. They sent the check and the energetic young lady will spend time at camp feeling like a normal kid – making friends, smiling and working hard. For more information or to donate, visit their web site


Now the best partners we, For the Love of Kids Ministry, have in the whole world is you. You donate to us through St Patrick Catholic Community, you hear and answer the call to help families in need through the CarePortal. You are there when the call is sent out for more ministers to help support the children in the group home foster care system. During these “Dog Days of Summer” you are there setting up swim days, movie days, bowling days, crafts and so much more. You are there at every turn reaching out with your supportive hand, the hand of God. You are there sowing the seeds of love and kindness, and it is amazing to see. Someday you may see the fruit of your labor, but it is enough to know that you are making a difference in the lives of the future generations.


Mathew 13

“A sower went out to sow.
And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path,
and birds came and ate it up.
Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil.
It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep,
and when the sun rose it was scorched,
and it withered for lack of roots.
Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.

But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit,
a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.
Whoever has ears ought to hear.”


We want to thank all of you for your continued support, joining us as ministers, donating your wealth, and praying for the children and their future. We would be nothing without your support, or the support of our partners, so for this we thank you.


We are here for the long haul and we will not go away.


That is what the For the Love of Kids Ministry is about; helping with love in any way we can.

Happy Birthday, You are 16 (Ministry Blog – For the Love of Kids)

Growing up, was there ever a doubt that you would grow up to the ripe old age of 16? Did your birthday come every year?


I remember longing to turn 16 – the thrill of being able to drive, get a job off the farm, to be 16. Birthdays are not something to wish for as a child. They are a given, an expectation. I remember when my nephew was killed at the age of 18 in an automobile accident. I remember the sorrow and pain of my brother and his wife. Time stood still for a while. A surreal sense of loss fell over us all. You are not supposed to bury someone so young, no more birthdays.


His death came as a huge shock to everyone. Can you imagine a child of 12 or 13 not expecting to have a next birthday? With parents and relatives rejecting you on a daily basis and constantly reminding you of your worthlessness, it would give anyone the dreaded feelings of death. Beaten down mentally, not only eliminates self-esteem but the want and desire for a tomorrow, until there is a tomorrow without the abuse. When a child is removed, supported and loved there is a chance for them to blossom like our girl “A”.


Jerimiah 20

But the LORD is with me, like a mighty champion:
my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph.
In their failure they will be put to utter shame,
to lasting, unforgettable confusion.
O LORD of hosts, you who test the just,
who probe mind and heart,
let me witness the vengeance you take on them,
for to you I have entrusted my cause.


“A” didn’t think she had a tomorrow; She was so surprised that she actually had a 16th birthday. On her 16th birthday she realized that she really could have the future that a year prior seemed like only an impossible dream. Her strength is amazing. She told us of her past, the years of mental abuse and of her resolve to make something of herself. “They will not keep me down, I want to do something great so they can see that I made something of myself. I will win, despite them.” She has plans of finishing high school and college with eyes looking forward to a career in law enforcement.  As we talked you could see her eyes shining with confidence. This was a new gal, not the down trodden girl we met 8 months earlier.


Matthew 10

And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul


“A” has a job which she loves, and she has plans for her future.  She is a bright light to all of the other girls in the house. It is always intriguing to watch the dynamics of the home change as the girls come and go. Some gals come in carrying so much anger and self-doubt but with every visit there are visible changes. The girls come alive with the support of the staff and with the love and support of our wonderful ministers. Our volunteer ministers deserve so much praise for all the time they give in the preparation of the weekly visits and special outings. The change in A’s life is because of all the love showered on her from all of the ministers. Every minister is an example of God’s love, a beacon of light for the girls.


Matthew 10

Jesus said to the Twelve:
“Fear no one.
Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed,
nor secret that will not be known.
What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light;
what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.


We are here for the long haul and we will not go away.


That is what the For the Love of Kids Ministry is about; helping with love in any way we can.

Everyone Deserves a Father (Ministry Blog – For the Love of Kids)

Early in my life I didn’t have a father that I can really remember. I had older brothers who were, and still are, my role models of “dad.” They looked out for me, showed me what healthy relationships looked like, and took me to church when mom was working. Then along came my step dad, who reinforced the values that my brothers instilled in me, and gave me the paternal love that a young boy of 11 craves. Growing up he was everything I wanted to be – strong, smart, loving and gentile. I have always wanted to emulate him in my parenting. I cannot imagine my life without the love and support of my dad.


No dad is perfect. Mine didn’t play sports, take me to games, or play in the park. Our time was spent working on the farm, taking long walks in the woods, or hunting and fishing. My goal as a child was to please my dad. I remember the first time he told me how proud he was of me. I would never trade the years I had with my dad for anything in this world.


Needless to say, not all dads are present and if they are sometimes the children wish they weren’t. Many of the girls in group home foster care shy away when you talk about dads. To many of these girls, a “dad” is a dream, the elusive ghost, the man who gave them life but nothing else. I remember those thoughts but unlike these girls my dream of a dad came true. Children in foster care almost never get a forever family or forever dad, especially if they are over the age of 8.

Here is some information from the North American Council on Adoptable Children:


Every youth in foster care needs and deserves a permanent family. Despite the nation’s stated goal to achieve permanency for children, in 2007 more than 28,000 youth aged out of foster care, meaning they left the child welfare system without a permanent family.

About 43 percent of waiting children are nine or older, but 72 percent of those who are adopted are under age nine. The average age of children when they are adopted from foster care is 6.6 years, while the average age of waiting children is 8.2 years. The average waiting child has been in foster care for more than three years.

(North American Council on Adoptable Children)


We can recite the stories we’ve been told about the bad dad. Would it surprise you that most of these kiddos dads just disappear? Not wanting anything to do with the children? Some are abusive physically and mentally. Many more are incarcerated leaving the families to fend for themselves. Can you imagine not knowing your children, not attending a graduation or recital? Worse yet, being a teenager and knowing that you have no one, you are expendable, and no one seems to care? I can give you all kinds of statistics on not only the bad things that happen to the foster youth but there is staggeringly few statistics on the ones that actually make it to having a productive life. We have to help teach the children what a healthy relationship is and break the cycle of neglect.


These children need more than what we can give them. They need a forever home, they need the love of a parent, the support of a father. Don’t be afraid to reach out and help. We have to be there in any way we can, showing them love, supporting, guiding and teaching them. As a man I see the need of a father’s influence with every visit we make. The children flock around wanting to talk, to tell of their day or week, to banter and tease, for someone to listen and give advice. I love spending time with these kids, talking, playing, caring for them, and listening. Taking them home, rescuing them is not a real option or solution, educating them and teaching them that they are loved is the only viable solution. We must be there not as a parent but as a role model, support system and educator.


Everyone needs and deserves a father, a role model. I thank God every day for the dads that I had.

Happy Father’s Day!


We are here for the long haul and we will not go away.


That is what the For the Love of Kids Ministry is about; helping with love in any way we can.

Beautifully Broken (Ministry Blog – For the Love of Kids)

The day God gave the disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit is celebrated as Pentecost. It also marks the birth of the church. God gave the disciples the gift of language to go to all ends of the earth to spread His message, the gospel. We all are called as His disciples to go forth and share Him in our words and in our actions.


There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; 
there are different forms of service but the same Lord;
there are different workings but the same God
who produces all of them in everyone.
To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit
is given for some benefit.  1 Corinthians 12:4-11


We visit, we educate, we laugh, we share, we sometimes cry but, as disciples, our mission is to bring Christ to these children. We always bring it with our actions and words; sometimes we bring the church and our beautiful sanctuary directly into their lives.


Recently, while helping a young lady acquire Social Security Card and state identification card, we asked what she wanted to do after school.  To our astonishment she said “I want to be a nurse, but how can I get your job? I would like to help kids like me too.” She didn’t believe us that we were volunteers and we didn’t get paid, monetarily anyway, for helping her. She realized that we were helping her because of a higher calling, because we cared.


God moves souls. God brings us together for all the right reasons.  A few months, ago one of our ministers set up a half day retreat at St Patrick with the help of the Life Teen Core Team.  It was sold to me as a “Beautifully Broken” retreat with lots of learning, friendship, and sharing, and touchy-feely things that left me a bit anxious about the event. Keep in mind that we were inviting girls from two different homes who sometimes didn’t get along that well, to put it mildly. We all met at the church early on Saturday morning, not the happiest of groups that early in the morning. My apprehension grew in those first minutes, not really knowing how this all would play out. The first exercise was a “Get to Know you” game mixed with musical chairs. I was ready for anything, except what happened. The girls had fun–more than fun–learning about each other and about the women who were helping and running the day’s festivities. The room was alive with their sharing and laughing. My heart was so filled with joy, and all of the apprehension evaporated in an instant.  The remainder of the day went the same way: tremendous amounts of love and more than a few tears. Everyone was saddened when the day came to an end, with tears and hugs all around. God was within the walls of our Holy Ground. He was evident in all who attended that day.


A few weeks later, three of the young ladies from the retreat also joined the Life Teen retreat in Payson. They were strangers amongst the campers, with worried looks on their faces as we waited with them prior to boarding the busses. That was not the way they got off the busses on their return. The children of our parish welcomed them, showed them God’s love, demonstrating that they are welcome, that all are welcome. And that our parish will reach out to be there for them. This experience has changed the lives of these three young women. I see it every time I am with these three girls. Their smile is a little broader, their hugs a little stronger, and they have expanded their lives beyond the four walls of the group home.


I thank God every day for this parish, for this holy building, for I have seen the face of God here in these “Beautifully Broken” children and in the wonderful children of the parish.


Thanks to the St Patrick Life Teen Core Team! You all rock!

I would like to give a special thank you to Jen, Kelli, Meagan and Laura for their inspiration and willingness to share  stories and Jen’s book with the girls.


We are here for the long haul and we will not go away.


That is what the For the Love of Kids Ministry is about; helping with love in any way we can.

May is a Trying Month (Ministry Blog – For the Love of Kids)

May is a trying month for most parents and children. It is a month of change, growth, and an expansion of one’s personal horizons. May is graduation month, the month that we move forward with life, moving to the next grade, new school or going for that job. It is a true month of transition. Sometimes it is a month of great turmoil.


As children, we look forward to May with the end of the school year and the start of summer. Summer is a time of trips, camps, pool time, playing with friends at the park until called home for dinner, and most importantly a great time to sleep until you want to get up. Oh, the joy of being young!


Those are my memories and thoughts of May and they are not everyone’s thoughts or realities of summer. What if the end of the school year means you are one step closer to being 18 and homeless? What if graduating from one grade to the next means nothing to you because it is just something that happens… it happens with no effort or personal growth; you are just pushed along.  What if summer means that you spend long hours closed in a house watching movies and old TV shows with the same group of people every day? Those people are your peers but you didn’t choose them. You did not choose any of those you spend your time with, and you would not have chosen them to be even considered a friend. Can you see yourself, as a child, spending your summer cooped up with a group of nine other kids, all girls or all boys, which you didn’t choose and whom you may not even like? These are the realities of living in a group home.


Sometimes, there are bright spots. Sometimes there are kids who take the challenges life throws at them, and with a shrug of their shoulders they motor on. We attended a graduation this past week of one such gal. Kiana was a shy, mentally underdeveloped, child who would never give up. She struggled to read and to fit in. She was enrolled in a high school for special needs children at age 18. At 19 she decided she wanted to be a massage therapist. She pursued her new dream with a new-found inner strength that was visible to all. Kiana would catch the bus at 6 am to high school. After school she would catch the city bus to head across town to her massage therapy school, then catch the city bus again back to the group home, usually arriving around 6:30-7:00 pm. We would often be there to witness her arrival home to the group foster home, always with the biggest smile, ready to join in even though you could tell she was exhausted.


kianaKiana is 20 years old and has graduated both high school and massage therapy school this year during the month of May. She will soon turn 21, the age at which the state sees her as an adult, marking the end of its parenting role. Kiana will move to a separate facility soon to help her learn to be on her own and prepare her for the next phase of her life. We will follow Kiana to be there for her, to answer the phone if and when she calls, to assist in any way we can.


We are here for the long haul and we will not go away.


That is what the For the Love of Kids Ministry is about; helping with love in any way we can.