It has been two months since the gift giving season ended and most of us are looking forward to Spring and maybe even a little bit of sunshine, yet some gifts and memories continue on giving.As a counselor at Rays, I have the opportunity to witness what Richard Sherman and his foundation Blanket Coverage do for our families for each holiday season. I also get to see the lasting effects of their generosity.
In December 2016, for the third year in a row, some of our families here at RAYS had the opportunity to participate in Richard Sherman’s Blanket Coverage Event. Thirteen of our RAYS clients and their families attended a holiday celebration, where they had the chance to meet some Seahawks players, and take a picture with Richard Sherman himself! Mr. Sherman’s foundation donated much needed and wished for gifts to each of our families. Items ranged from clothing, gift cards, toys, mattresses, dishware, and for the most part, whatever they wished for most.
The need in the community is undoubtedly apparent. One nominated family became homeless two months prior to the event and were certain there would be no holiday season for them. The family’s RAYS’ counselor commented on the situation saying:
“My client tried to remain positive no matter the situation, which is a great mindset to have, but hard to maintain when the holidays are celebrated for weeks at end and you have nothing to look forward to”.
Mr. Sherman’s foundation donated much needed and wished for gifts to each of our families. Items ranged from clothing, gift cards, toys, mattresses, dishware, and for the most part, whatever they wished for most.
Now, we are in March and I still talk to kids and their families about the impact of the event. Often the physical gifts are more than a simple one time experience; recently a counseling client told me, “I just spent the rest of the money on my gift card from Christmas on a pair of shorts for soccer practice.” Sometimes, a pair of shorts are enough to help a child to participate in a sport that keeps them busy, active, and out of trouble after school.
In addition to this generous gifts, for most of our families, it’s the memory of the event that truly makes the difference. Drawing on a positive memory can often shape how individuals deal with present and future stresses. If you are fortunate, as many of us are, you have a well of these pleasant memories to choose from when times are hard. Unfortunately, for many of our RAYS families these memories are harder to come by because of unfortunate life circumstances and tragic events. As a clinician, it is not uncommon to hear the Richard Sherman event is THE memory a family holds on to which tells them they are worth someone else’s time, effort, goodwill, and care.
Yes, the Blanket Coverage event is an overwhelmingly generous and appreciated gesture in the moment; however, it would be a disservice not to point out the lasting effects that continue to bring joy and benefit our clients beyond December and the holiday season.
This is all to say, we know it is March but…
Thank you again, again, and again, Richard Sherman and Blanket Coverage!
For more about Blanket Coverage: https://www.richardsherman25.com/blogs/blog/the-importance-of-christmas
For more about this last year’s event: http://www.king5.com/news/local/stories-worth-sharing/richard-sherman-fiance-adopt-38-families-for-christmas/375984873
It fits. Yaya has come a long way since her premature birth to parents unable to care for her. At 18 months, she’s affectionate, bright, and a force to be reckoned with, just like her grandmother.
Ms. Alesia had already raised four children—two sons of her own, and two nieces—when she got the call. She had recently retired. A talented seamstress and poet, active in her church, and a confident community leader, her days were hardly dull. Still, her life was quiet and independent.
That all changed when Yaya was born. Ms. Alesia says with a wry smile, “if you think you got a plan for your life, you better forget it.”
She is raising Yaya on her own. “She’s rambunctious,” Ms. Alesia says. “And she’s smart!” She has to chase her down for diaper changes, find babysitters, and create predictable routines for the little girl. Even with these challenges, she’s completely committed to Yaya.
“She’s my heart,” Ms. Alesia says.
It’s About Love
The evening Yaya was born, Ms. Alesia knew something was going to change. It was late in April, and she was worried about her son and his girlfriend, who were expecting a baby. She said a prayer for them, and then felt inspired to write a poem about the clouds rolling by her window. Not long after, her son called. Yaya had arrived early.
She met the little girl the next day. Ms. Alesia touched her through the incubator. “She was just a little thing,” she says. She didn’t know what would happen. Her son and his girlfriend asked if she could take in the baby, but she wasn’t sure. However, just a few hours later, she felt compelled to step in.
“I knew I’d care for her,” Ms. Alesia says, “because it’s about love.” And so, at six weeks old, Yaya was released from foster care into her grandmother’s custody.
“I didn’t want to take [her parents’] rights,” Ms. Alesia explains, “but this is the choice her parents have made.” She’s honest about this, and she will be with her granddaughter as she gets older. “I want her to know that her parents couldn’t take care of her, and I have her because I love her.”
RAYS Kinship Care
Ms. Alesia doesn’t have much family support, and she has limited resources. Childcare alone is difficult to cover. Having raised her sister’s children years ago, she knows how challenging being a kinship caregiver can be. This time, she’s determined to get the support she needs. Now, she says, “I want to learn everything I possibly can.”
One place that she finds community and companionship? RAYS and the Kinship Care group at the West Hill Family Center.
“My spirit kept telling me to come back here,” Ms. Alesia says of how she found the group. She comes every week to meet with other caregivers in situations to similar to hers. She finds that many of them feel “such despair” because of the care and the work of raising their grandchildren. Ms. Alesia feels called to offer inspiration via poetry and storytelling. “I choose to spread to love,” she says.
She advocates for a “positive mindset,” and says that it’s important for her and the other women in the group to tell their stories. “Not just their grandma stories,” she adds, “but their whole story, their trials and triumphs.”
Most of all, the women know they aren’t alone. “It’s the number one thing that keeps us going,” she says.
Ms. Alesia helps support that sisterhood through the Angel of Hope Play Place, as well. She’s taken it upon herself to host this event frequently at her home so that other foster caregivers can meet and take a break while their children play. The Play Place is inspired by her granddaughter, who she calls her own “angel of hope.”
Meanwhile, Yaya is thriving in Ms. Alesia’s care. Her grandmother firmly believes that she is a “little light” in the world.
“We’re lucky to have each other,” Ms. Alesia says
When the clouds move, where do they go?
Gliding across the sky to and fro.
When the rain falls where does it land?
On a soft tongue or an open hand?
When the snow falls, Why is it cold?
To remind us of the young and the old.
When I whisper your name, what do you hear?
I love you my child have no fear.
FO Day Poetry ©April 2014