Meet Theron: His Story, His WordsWritten by Workhorse Marketing
You and I have never met, but you have changed my life.
Your generous support of Austin Children’s Shelter provided a place for me to heal and learn to stand on my own.
For as long as I can remember, something about my family just seemed…off. Mom worked as a nurse maid during the week, but on the weekends she drank. A lot. And she was terrified of something happening to me if I left the house so she never let me go outside to play. When it came time for kindergarten, she was so afraid of something happening to me at school that she didn’t send me. Instead, she “home-schooled” me. I put that in quotes because with Mom gone at work all week and Dad home but cold, distant and only ever talking about Vietnam, there was not a whole lot of teaching happening at home. Instead I spent my days playing video games, watching TV and wishing I could go to school and have friends. I was lonely, depressed and didn’t learn to read until I was ten.
When I was 10, I taught myself to read. When I was 11, Dad was diagnosed with cancer. When I was 13, cancer took him and Mom only got worse.
We moved into a one bedroom apartment here in Austin, but she drank all the time now. My mom loves me. I know that. She loved me so much she didn’t want anything to happen to me at school. But the drinking increased her paranoia and she would get confused and think I was the one trying to hurt her. So she would hurt me in “defense.”
When I was 15, I knew something needed to change and I was the only one who could make that change. At the urging of my online gaming friend, I called a child abuse hotline. Eventually, a Child Protective Services worker came to my house and with one glance, she knew it wasn’t safe for me to be there. That day, I arrived at Austin Children’s Shelter.
That day, you changed my life.
At almost 16, I didn’t want a new family. I had a family. So instead of being moved around every few months to multiple foster homes like so many of the kids I came to know, I came straight to Austin Children’s Shelter and stayed. Within six months I moved from Emergency Shelter to the Transitional Living Program. Eventually I moved to the Supervised Independent Living Program where I worked on preparing for independent adult life.
Your support of Austin Children’s Shelter meant that there was a safe place for me to learn to stand on my own. Having people around me who I could trust—like my caseworker Aja and my counselor Tanya who have been there through it all—really helped me make sense of my past and understand my family situation. Turns out, Dad had schizophrenia and Mom had already lost one child and her struggle with alcoholism made her dementia and severe paranoid schizophrenia worse. She’s in care now and while we aren’t close, I know she is getting the help she needs. That means I can finally focus on me.
Aja, Tanya and all the staff at Austin Children’s Shelter listened to me and what I felt I needed. Then they gave me the stern push I needed to continue to take responsibility for myself. With their help, I graduated high school with highest honors and received a scholarship to attend a vegan culinary school. I don’t think that is the right fit for me, but now I have a set of skills I can use to support myself: A few weeks ago I was promoted to fry cook at a local bar & grill and moved out of Supervised Independent Living and into my own apartment.
Right now, I’m focusing on successfully living independently by supporting myself financially and maintaining a healthy state of mind. Next semester, I plan to add college classes and focus on doing well while maintaining my independent life. College will be a longer journey for me than most, but I know I will reach my goal of becoming a high school art teacher.
Sometimes I think about what it would have been like to grow up in a stable home. To go away to college. To call home to Mom and Dad when life got tough. To be like so many other 21-year olds. But life had other plans for me. Thankfully, so did you.
Thanks to you, I graduated high school. Thanks to you, I have skills to support myself. Thanks to you, I know the importance of going to college, working hard, and earning that degree. Thanks to you, I have a future I’m excited about. I really can’t thank you enough! But there are still a lot of other kids at Austin Children’s Shelter who have stories just like mine. Kids who want to succeed. We just need somewhere safe to rest our heads, a few adults who believe in us and a gentle nudge in the right direction. I hope they all have a chance like I did – and I hope you’ll continue to help.
Whether you make a gift today or not, I want to thank you for helping me succeed by supporting Austin Children’s Shelter. Your past donation gave me the gifts of empowerment and freedom from fear. Thank you.