Have you ever been asked by a friend to attend something at the last minute and then be completely moved by what you witness? That's what happened to me Monday night at the Al Hirschfeld Theater when my friend Cathy asked me to go to the You Gotta Believe "Voices for the Voiceless" Stars for Foster Kids concert. That may seem like a mouthful, but it was actually 2 and half hours of utter joy and beauty.
You Gotta Believe is one of a few organizations in the U.S that has a mission to find families for young adults, teens, and pre-teens in the foster care system. Too often, children 'age out' of the foster care system, but this incredible group believes ALL children are adoptable and make it their mission to find homes for older 'kids' - some who are even college aged.
|Alec Mapa & Stephanie Mills|
And those are the stories we heard tonight.
It was a star-studded event with Chita Rivera opening the evening as only she can, and yes there were Broadway, TV, film, sports personalities that flooded the stage and wowed the crowd with talent...I mean come on, Gloria Gaynor! (Plus I simply want to follow Alec Mapa around and just laugh at everything he says.)
But it was the real stories that got to me. That was the reason for the night. The kids that came out and shared how they were adopted later in life after a rough road to their early lives. Adults who told how a certain child took their hearts and they knew they were meant to be a family. Joseph Tole who went through the foster system himself and then created his own family by adopting older children. Rosie Perez sharing her absolutely moving story of her childhood living in a group home and singing the song "Home" from the Wiz to get herself through dark times. And then Stephanie Mills comes out and sings the song and there isn't a dry eye in the house.
I've never been a parent, but I grew up in a family that was a foster family. I often wondered what happened to those kids in the 80s when they left our house. What became of them. I know what became of one of them because we adopted him and he is my little brother that I'm so proud of having served our country in two tours of duty overseas. For me, he was meant to be our family after coming into our lives at 2 years old (and stealing all of our hearts). But for those that are older, that think they will never know what it means to have that unconditional love and connection - I could cry again now typing this as I think back to those stories tonight.
Check out this group or a group like it in your area. Mentor a child. Be a big brother or sister to someone younger than you. I never thought I wanted to be a dad, but boy I sure left there tonight wishing I had that capacity like those amazing people that stood and shared their stories. I'm lucky that I get to travel to schools and speak to kids and perhaps inspire something in them. Tonight, I was the one inspired and came home, went on their site, and made a donation to this awesome group!
Thank you, Cathy, for thinking of me to invite. And a HUGE thank you to Seth & James for producing an incredible evening!!