Yesterday, this little girl turned 18, which doesn’t seem possible to me. She tells everyone “I was born in the millennium, it’s easy to keep track of my age!” What’s harder to believe is how much she’s accomplished under difficult circumstances.
Let me tell you a little about this special kid.
-She was born addicted to alcohol and drugs on the backseat of her parents’ car when they stopped to buy more alcohol at a gas station
-She weighed under two lbs. at birth
-She overcame the odds and grew after a long stay in ICU
-Her parents’ parental rights were terminated at birth and she and her older brother went home to live with her maternal grandma, who also cares for a severely special needs family member and grandma herself is disabled
-She was the March of Dimes spokes model when she was four years old
-She’s tiny and mighty and always will be; her growth plates closed very early due to the fetal alcohol syndrome
-She has inoperable tumors behind her eyes and other health problems due to fetal alcohol syndrome and being born drug-addicted
Here is a snapshot of the 11 years I’ve known her:
-She lives out in the country in a trailer by the river, literally behind railroad tracks where the blacktop ends
-I became her way out of that life a couple times a week so she could do the normal things kids usually get to do every day
-Her grandma does the best she can, but can’t do much due to her health and constraints of money and where they live
-Her older brother did well until he graduated and is now in jail, unable to escape the pattern of poverty and addiction
-Her paternal Grandpa has arrests in his past where he is required to register, but is Tootie’s only option for transportation to and from anywhere she needs to go
-She is a junior in public high school and on the work release program at schoool
-Tootie has worked at McDonald’s for over two years and works 39 hours a week
-Her grandma won’t let her quit or get a different job and wants this to be her career even after graduation
-She’s never been on a date or to a school dance or any school activity
-She’s never once been in trouble or done drugs
-She never complains or asks for anything
When I asked Tootie yesterday what she wanted to do after graduation, she told me she was going to do the same thing she’s doing now. She thinks — and has been told — this is all there is for her. That’s false. She’s amazing and could do anything she set her mind to, she already has. She has fallen into that proverbial crack of invisibility and no one is helping her dream or hope. We all need hope and dreams.
I want Tootie to have a future beyond that trailer. The key to that is for her to have a car of her own and to not be held hostage by people who don’t want her to leave because they need her to take care of them and the money they receive for her. I’m taking her to tour Linn State Technical College, which would enable her to live with her grandma, commute, meet people her own age, acquire a skill, and let her dream of a good future. She needs a car to do this.
Many of you have been a fan of Tootie over the years. If you would like to help her break this family cycle of poverty, abuse, and addiction, a car is a monumental and pivotal piece of that process.
Thanks for for listening to her story. She’s a special kid.
- Greg Weaver
- William Debord
- Sara Lampe
- Steve Morton
- Nicole Stowe
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