K is 19. His mother has used his social security number and those of his brothers and sisters to commit fraud for years. He has lived with us for six months and has a full-time restaurant job. He is quiet, kind, and helpful. He is saving to be able to rent a house with the other Bonus Kids in the coming months.
C is 21. Her stepfather unexpectedly passed away last year, forcing her to drop out of school to help her mother make ends meet. She is smart, conscientious, responsible and determined. Her mother and extended family support her with love but have few financial resources to offer her. She has retail management experience and has worked steadily at a series of retail jobs but is trying to find a non-retail position to move her career in a new direction. She has a car payment and school debt and is trying to make ends meet and make her way in the world.
S is 18. She is an honors student who attended college as a freshman in the fall (after staying with us for a few weeks when we found out she was sleeping in a car). She comes home to us when the dorms are closed, because she is not allowed to stay with either parent. She found out just before second term that she is unable to pay for tuition, housing or food at school. She is sweet, funny and whip-smart, and now is sleeping on our couch and looking for a job and a way to continue attending college.
J is 21. Her father passed away last year. She has been living with a young man but the situation has become untenable. Her mother, with whom she is still close, lives in Oklahoma, but moving there would put J back in a very small town with little opportunity and bad influences she moved here to escape. She is lovely and kind. She has stayed overnight with us recently when things have gotten bad at her apartment, and has now agreed to move out and stay with us full-time. She is looking for a job and will move with the rest of the kids to a rental house or apartment.
Unfortunately, there aren't many good options for young people this age. They are too old to rely on help available for children, and too young to safely take advantage of homeless shelters or subsidized housing. Those that are gay have even more significant challenges if homeless. They are not alone. Many of their friends face similar challenges with family, with discrimination, with insecurity.
These four live in our home along with our own two kids (21 and 17). They are actively looking for a house that they can rent together, and those without jobs are aggressively seeking one. They sleep doubled-up with our kids in their bedrooms, on inflatable mattresses in the living room, on couches, and in the backyard tent (in a warm climate, thank goodness!).
We can’t offer much in terms of financial support, but we can and do provide a safe place to sleep, regular meals, laundry facilities, a car to borrow now and then, help with gas money for work and interviews, storage for their stuff, advice and guidance when asked, and unconditional love and support. They do their own laundry, look for work, help around the house and support each other.
They are all wonderful kids. We love them, and they love each other.
Our Bonus Kids need help beyond what we can offer. They need help with funds to rent a house together, pay for gas or bus transportation to and from work, pay for utilities and groceries, and help them with their bills.
All of the donations received will be placed in a separate account specifically to support these kids, administered by us. The money will not subsidize the food, housing and other expenses we incur while they stay with us, but will be saved for their use for rent, groceries and other daily necessities as they move out.
I know that, like us, most families don’t have a lot to spare. We are grateful for any support you can provide to help us help these kids. They mean a great deal to us, and we just want to help them continue their journey — safely, with love and support.
- Mark Iwanaga
- Lisa Kathman
- Emily Kund
- Paul Peterson
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