Friday, December 13, 2013

Christmas #9

It is hard to believe that 9 years ago we were spending our first Christmas with "our kids".  How time has flown by.

When Mr. Thornton asked us to help him with these kids that his wife left with him, we had no idea how we would manage.  The first few years were a flurry of agencies and endless paperwork, only to find that for Mr. Thornton there was little help available for a step-parent who was on Social Security and SSI.  The SSI denies him the right to earn any kind of income, so we were stuck.

Our goal was to keep this little family together in a home that provided at least the essentials for living - food, clothing and necessities.  For 9 years many Angels have answered the call.  We often think about where they would be if it wasn't for you.

Life with their mom on the streets meant little babies and toddlers with little food, no clothes and no supervision, left to fend for themselves as they roamed the streets.  What would the girls be doing to get by?  What would a little boy who suffers from abuse and neglect on top of ADHD symptoms be doing?  Where would they all be now?  The thought makes us cringe, and our minds just don't want to go there.

Marquel is now 16 and in 10th grade, Annie is 14 in 8th grade, Charlie is 11 in 6th grade, and Chip is 8 in 3rd grade.  Marquel has no memory of school in New Orleans, yet she is on the AB honor roll every semester!  Annie and Marquel love school, love their teachers, and have never been in any serious trouble.  Charlie has had awesome, caring teachers who have worked hard to help him be successful in the classroom.  Chip is always happy and smiling.  They are all smart enough to do whatever they set their minds to, in spite of a an alcoholic mother and the early years of neglect and abuse.

This year Mr. Thornton has taken another hit with a 25% reduction in his food stamps.  He loves to cook, and rarely cooks anything out of a box, preferring rice and beans and gumbo.  But now he doesn't get enough to cover the rice, beans, milk and bread, while trying to satisfy the appetite of growing kids.  While we understand the desire to wean people off welfare and back into productive citizens, there are those such as Mr. Thornton who fall into a crack in the system.

This means that more of his meager income has to be spent on food, leaving less for other necessities such as soaps, paper products, laundry detergent, hygiene products and money needed for gas and auto maintenance.  He told us he is down to 1 pair of jeans for himself and is need of warm long-sleeved shirts.

One of the biggest lessons that we have had to learn is that of humility.  We have had to ask for help for the Thornton family when we would much prefer not to.  We have learned how many generous Angels there are, and we are so thankful for all of you!

If you would like to help the Thornton family, there are several ways that you can do it:

Gift Cards to Walmart or HEB are always appreciated
Visa Gift cards for gas, auto maintenance or other necessities
Cards can be delivered or sent to us or directly to Mr. Thornton (email me to request address)

Cash donations that are tax deductible can be made through St. John Lutheran Church - be sure to mark "Thornton Fund" - and can be a one time gift or an on-going monthly gift.  If you would like the cash donation to be used to purchase a gift card, email me and I will arrange for that.

Randy and I along with Mr. Thornton, thank you for your continued support.

Merry Christmas ~ and a great New Year to you all!

Randy and Stephanie
Mr. Thornton, Marquel, Annie, Charlie and Chip

Friday, January 11, 2013


This week did not go well for Charlie.  With a front coming through bringing rain and thunderstorms, his stress level was elevated.  With rain there is no recess, so vital to a kid who needs a release from the excessive energy and stress.  The lights flicker on and off, adding to his stress level.  Then he goes to Art class, another high stress experience.

The easiest way to describe the stress level of a person who has had traumatic experiences is this:  On a scale of 1-10 for stress, most of us live at a 5 or 6.  When things happen that upset us, our stress level will go up, but we have developed ways to calm ourselves and return to the 5 or 6 where we normally live.  If something happens that takes our stress level to 10, that is when we "lose it", doing or saying things that we would not ordinarily do or say.

For those who have experienced trauma, they live every day at a 8 or 9.  It takes very little to push them past the 10.

When we sent Charlie off to school Tuesday morning, we talked about the weather and the fact that he was safe at school with all his teachers looking out for him.  We knew it would be a difficult day for him, but we did not anticipate that the school would call before 11:00 asking us to come talk to Charlie because he could not calm himself down.

There is no cure for PTSD.  Survivors can only learn to understand the triggers and figure out ways to cope that work for them.  For a child who has suffered through severe neglect, abuse, abandonment, a hurricane, nearly drowning in the flood waters, seeing dead bodies, witnessing sights and sounds that even adults have trouble processing,  it may well take a lifetime for him to figure out all the triggers and how to deal with each one.

Some triggers we know and try to prepare him for by talking him through it.  When it comes to lights flickering in a thunderstorm, we hear the panic in his voice.  "What if they go off?"  "What if they don't come back on?"  "What will we do!"  Many kids are scared of thunderstorms and the flickering lights, but for Charlie is is a deep terror that is triggered inside his entire being.  He has recently been able to use the word "flashback" when he is describing how he feels - which shows he is learning to identify the trigger.  Now he faces the challenge of learning to cope with those feelings and strategies to calm himself.

Tuesday night the electricity went off for several hours.  Mercifully, it was after Charlie had fallen asleep, because it blinked on and off several times before going off for several hours.  With computers, printers, fax machines, appliances and even toys that are activated each time the electricity comes back on, the sounds associated with power surges can be a little startling.

About an hour later I heard a panicked voice calling me, "Miss Stephanie!  What is wrong, things don't look right!"  He is accustomed to the nightlight, fish tank and other lights we leave on in the house at night in case he needs to get up, and he knew things weren't right.  I was pleasantly surprised that giving him a flashlight to hold onto kept him in bed, although I knew it was a while before he got back to sleep.

While we try to shield him from news about storms and flash floods, which our area is prone to, he seems to know instinctively when these things are in the forecast.  On the way to school, there is a low area that tends to get water over the road, and he asked Randy "what if I can't get  home from school?"

Another trigger we have come to recognize is Art class.  Art requires fine motor skills (which are not well developed due to neglect) and emotions.  This emotional time on top of his already heightened stress level was just too much for him to deal with.

Our goal is to help him get to the point where he can identify the triggers and learn to deal with them.  When he is able to understand that he is going to be okay in a thunderstorm, that the lights might flicker, but they will always come back on, when he is able to find ways to relieve stress so that missing recess isn't such a problem for him, he will be on the road to coping better with something he is going to have to live with the rest of his life.

Then maybe he will be able to allow himself to work on fine motor skills, learning to enjoy art class and not be so critical of himself and his art.  The way a traumatized brain thinks is "I can't make it look the way I want it to, therefore I am stupid and now it will be hung up in the hall (with everyone's) for everyone to see and then everyone will know I am stupid, and if they know I am stupid they won't like me, and if no one likes me no one will be there for me when I need them, and if no one is there for me when I get in trouble, I might die".

When we can wrap our minds around how trauma affects the brain, then we can begin to understand how situations such as art class are literally a life and death situation.  If you were asked to do something that you were not capable of doing, and every part of your being told you that if you did not do it perfectly you would die - - where would your stress level be?  

For those who say "he just needs to get over it" - there are many victims of abuse, soldiers, psychologist, psychiatrists and doctors who would love to know a magic cure!

Until next time. . .

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Journey of Faith, Hope and Love

Seven years ago we set out on a journey of faith.  Faith that we would be able to find a way to keep Mr. Thornton and four precious kids together.  We knew we could not do this alone, but we had to have faith that it was the right thing to do and that we would be shown a way.

There are certain anniversaries that cause us to reflect on the blessings we have received, and Christmas is one of them.  Each year at this time we are overwhelmed with love and support shown to us and "our kids".

Angels comes in many different forms.  There are those who love to know how the kids are doing, and are loving and compassionate in their interest and advice.  At times we become overwhelmed with the "issues" that the situation presents with kids who have been neglected, abused and traumatized.  Every day is an effort to find ways to help them overcome their past.

There are those who just know when a hug is needed, no words necessary.  Prayers are always appreciated, and we know God is listening.  Charlie has a hard time believing, but last night he asked me if he prayed to God to give his friend a message in the middle of the night, would he do it?! 

There are those who give of their time and talents.  Marquel and Annie have Big Sisters who double as "mom" in many ways.  They have become involved in their little neighborhood church, leading the singing and learning to be part of a church community.  The self confidence they gain is priceless to them.  Their favorite songs to sing are those they learned at St. John and Camp Chrysalis.

We recently found a new Angel when we went looking for new ways to help Charlie.  Kate Reyes of Open Trail Ranch offered to take Charlie on scholarship.  Kate and her horses are so loving and dedicated, and Charlie doesn't even know it is "therapy".

There are dedicated and loving teachers, coaches and friends who take the time to give a little extra attention and guidance.  The Angels along the way who have offered their time and energy to help with tutoring.

And there are those who give monetary support, essential to keeping this family together.  Seven years ago we sat down with Pastor Schulte and explained that we had exhausted every avenue of help for this odd situation;  an elderly man with four small kids to raise.  For seven years the fund at St. John Lutheran Church has never run dry.  Each month there is enough to help pay rent, utilities and cover the costs of raising four kids, and there have been many generous donations over the years, including a vehicle when Mr. Thornton needed transportation. 

There are the Angels who provide birthday and Christmas presents each year for the kids.  Coming from a very "disposable" way of living, they now treasure each gift and have a difficult time parting with things that they have outgrown.  We often see them with toys or games that were given to them years ago.  They even have a hard time handing down clothes when they outgrow them.

Simple things that we take for granted, such as a bed that is all their own is treasured.  Even changing the sheets can throw them into a tizzy!  Their bedding is arranged a certain way, and we dare not touch it.  Pillows, blankets and stuffed animals have been treasured gifts.

We sincerely thank each and every one of you for your continued support for "our kids".  We stepped out in faith, and you all stepped up to answer that calling.

When we consider Marquel, now in 9th grade with 90's and 100's on her report card, and we remember the struggles she had in her first year in San Antonio, trying to do 3rd grade word when she had not attended 1st and 2nd grade, we owe it to all of you.   Sometimes when we get tired and frustrated we remind ourselves of where these kids would be and it gives us the courage to keep going.

As we come to the end of another year, it is a time when we think about our charitable giving for the coming year.  We ask that you keep this family in mind.  We all have gifts that we have been given, whether is it love and compassion or monetary.  We will start a new year on faith that we can keep this family together for another year, helping 4 little kids prosper and grow and break the cycle of poverty for the next generation.

Wishing each and everyone of you
A Very Merry Christmas and
A Happy New Year!

Until next time. . .
Stephanie, Randy, Mr. Thornton, Marquel, Annie, Charlie and Chip

Tax deductible donations can be made directly to St. John Lutheran church.  The money in this account is used 100% for the Thornton family needs.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

We never know what is around the corner!

Hard to get them all to smile at the same time!!
The first week of school, new school for Marquel, new principal for King Academy for Annie and Chip, new school procedures, hurricane in the gulf - it was all too much.  Just when we think things are on a steady course, we are blindsided with an eruption.

We were very optimistic about school, pleased to have them in what we thought was the best possible place for each, uniforms and school supplies ready to go.  Then came Monday!  With a new principal came new procedures for dropping off and picking up kids at Annie and Chip's school.  Of course the first day did not go smoothly, as school staff was not yet coordinated and parents were frustrated.

Then it was over to the high school to collect Marquel.  Another new place with new procedures, not sure where to go to - resulting in more frustration.  The phone call we got went something like this, "I withdrew them all from school!".

With the frustration and overwhelm so high, there was no use in arguing, we just said we would drive over Tuesday morning and help him get it sorted out.

After dropping Charlie off at school Tuesday morning, we made the 45 minute trek across town to find that emotions were still running very high.  He was determined to find different schools, and come up with excuses like "there are pregnant girls all over that high school" and "one of Marquel's classes is all boys - that's just not right" and "there was a huge fight and police swarming all over the place" (which was denied by high school personnel).

Starting last spring we had talked to Mr. Thornton and Marquel about a different high school, hoping she would choose one with higher educational ratings and smaller classes.  But Mr. Thornton could not get past the transportation issue, and would not even consider letting her take the bus, as the other students do.  He was insistent that she go to the closest high school (about 6 blocks from their house), and even asked if I thought it would be okay to transfer Chip and Annie to an elementary school and middle school located en route to the high school.  I said I did not think it was a good idea to change their school, that it was a good school and they needed the stability. In the back of my mind I was thinking to myself, "if that is what you want to do, go ahead, but I don't approve so I am not going to do it for you!"

So the first day of school with new procedures and the frustration that came with them was all the excuse he needed to change schools.  We knew that if we insisted that he leave things alone and let the new procedures work themselves out, he would not be able to let go of the frustration and it would only lead to more conflict with the schools as time went on.

We spent Tuesday filling out withdrawal forms and applications to new schools.  Chip is now enrolled in W. W. White Elementary School.  He says he likes his new teacher.  Annie and Marquel are enrolled in Southwest Preparatory School.  It is a small charter school, dedicated to helping teens prepare for college.  They are able to earn college credits and scholarships.  They will be starting a new sports program, which was a plus because the girls love their sports.  We feel it will be a good school for both girls.  Luckily, Annie will be required to wear khaki pants, and Marquel will be allowed to wear clothes of her choice, although she was upset that she could not wear casual t-shirts!  We will have to get her some appropriate tops.  And we were even able to get some speech therapy lined up for Annie, something we had been asking for for several years at her prior school.

We cannot discount the affect that Hurricane Isaac had on the events of this week.  Post Traumatic Stress never goes away, those affected can develop coping skills, but the emotions are never far under the surface and can cause what we might consider erratic behavior.  Charlie was very concerned, but getting teachers involved and getting out a map to show him how far away it was from us seemed to help.  Hopefully it will help alleviate his fears with future storms.

This week Randy and I watched a couple shows about Hurricane Katrina.  One was a documentary made about 4 months following the storm.  It reminded us of all the emotions and frustrations that the people went through.  Mr. Thornton was not the only one to hear comments like "go home and call 211 for assistance" (he had no home and no phone) or "show me your identification and we'll make you a new ID card" (would I need a new ID card if I already had one?) or the repeated visits and hours on the phone to FEMA - only to find out the paperwork had been lost - AGAIN!

While we hope the new schools work out well, we cringe at the thought of the added trauma for the kids.  We are glad that Charlie is able to live with us and have the stability he desperately needs.  Thanks to his awesome teachers, his first week of school went well, which is a milestone in itself.  Usually the first week is tough, getting back into a routine with friends, classes and teachers. 

Keep the kids in your prayers that they will all blossom and grow this school year.

Until next time. . .

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Where are they now?

It has been 7 years since Hurricane Katrina, and 5 years since I finished my book telling their story.  I thought it would be a good time to update everyone on where the family is and what they are doing.

When the book ended, Mr. Thornton had retrieved his wife's 4 youngest children from New Orleans at his wife's request.  Marquel was 8, Annie was 6, Charlie was 4 and Chip was 10 months.  We will never forget how skinny and dirty Chip and Charlie were and how happy Charlie was to get back to San Antonio and his own bed, complete with his own pillow and blanket.  Chip recuperated from his malnourished state and is now almost as tall as Charlie.

Mrs. Thornton has 3 older girls who are all now back in New Orleans.  The oldest, the little 14 year old girl who sat on our back porch with tears streaming down her face as she told her us sad life story, is now almost 21.  The youngest of the 3 called Mr. Thornton recently to inform him that she had a baby.  She is 17.  These girls have been in and out of jail and mostly live on the streets.  We understand that Mrs. Thornton has had at least 2 more babies since she went back to New Orleans, which would make total children for her 10, counting the one who died years ago due to neglect.

Thanks to a lawyer friend, we were able to help Mr. Thornton get a divorce and custody of the 4 kids who live here in San Antonio with him.  In order to help him with school, doctors and therapist, another friend helped us get a lawyer who composed a Durable Power of Attorney, which allows us to help Mr. Thornton take care of the kids needs.  Doctors, dentists and therapists are not part of their culture, so we make the appointments and make sure the kids get the health care they need.  The POA allows us to talk to the school and teachers, where due to privacy laws, this would not be possible otherwise. 

Mr. Thornton is now 75 years old (don't tell him I told you that!!)  He lives on the opposite side of San Antonio from us - a 45 minute drive each way.  Over the last 7 years we have put thousands of miles on our car helping him take care of the kids and other errands.  San Antonio is still a huge, bewildering place to him - he spent most of his life in a city he knew like the back of his hand.  We still have to help him if he needs to go more than a few miles from his house.

Marquel is 15 now and will be starting high school.  She has attended King Academy, which is an 8 grade school, so she has been very comfortable in a smaller school with the same kids and teachers for the last 6 years.  The thought of a huge high school has her scared to death.  Her goal at the moment is to be a Silver Spur (the San Antonio ladies basketball team) someday.   She is smart and she wants to be a good person, so we hope that sports and coaches will help her get through the difficult years to come. 

Annie is 12, and going into 7th grade at King Academy.  Because these kids were so neglected and abused, they have a very difficult time bonding with adults who want to take care of them.  It is difficult for the caregivers because as much as kids want a secure relationship, the relationships of the past have been so hurtful that they push the adults away as forcefully as they really want and need the security.  This constant push-pull behavior is tiring and frustrating to the parent.  Annie suffers deeply from the abandonment by her mother, and refuses to allow herself to bond with Mr. Thornton.  We are increasing worried about their relationship as the frustration in the home increases.

Charlie is now 10, and going to be in the 5th grade.  Charlie was 3 when little brother Chip came along.  Prior to that he had bonded with Mr. Thornton, and even at that little age would kick his mother away.  It gives us a clue as to the extent of the neglect and abuse he had endured from his mother.  Four weeks after little brother comes along, Katrina came, another huge trauma.  As time went on, he felt more and more like his step-father was pushing him aside for this new little brother, and that once again he was on his own.  The trauma came out in bad behavior, and there came a point when we decided he could not longer thrive in that home.  He came to live with us 2 1/2 years ago.  It has not been easy, but we feel he has bonded with us.  One of his biggest struggles has been learning to eat.  He is still very thin, but he is getting used to the idea of eating 3 healthy meals a day.

Chip is mostly a happy kid and is excited to be going into 2nd grade.  We began to notice some of the characteristics of ADHD and with medication, he is doing much better.  As the doctor explained, kids with ADHD are usually labeled "bad kids" because they brains are wired differently and they have so little control over their impulses.

In spite of all the traumas these kids have endured, they love school and manage to be on the A-B honor roll every year.  This says a lot for their determination and will to thrive.  We are so thankful for all those who have helped these kids;  the teachers, counselors, and of course all of you who give your support through love and monetary support. Mr. Thornton is receiving some family counseling with the girls, and Charlie has an awesome counselor we take him to.  No matter what we think of the cost of Medicaid in this country, here are 4 kids who desperately need the services they can get in order to break the cycle that their older sisters are continuing. 

We have to be most thankful to Mr. Thornton for his willingness to take on his wife's kids.  He knew that he could not do it on his own.  His Social Security and Disability do not cover the cost of raising 4 kids.  The SSI (disability) denies him the right to have a job.  So he does odd jobs, raises a few sheep and pigs, and does what he can to supplement his income.  Most people do not spend their retirement years raising 4 kids!

When Mr. Thornton took on these 4 kids we promised to help in any way that we could.  We knew it would be an ongoing project - at least until the kids are grown and on their own.  "Welfare" is an outdated word, but it does provide a small amount each month for food only (no necessities like soap or toilet paper), and it does provide the kids with health care.  That is it - no cash, no help with rent or utilities, no clothes or other necessities. 

Each month we are thankful that the fund at church has enough to help Mr. Thornton cover the basic costs of providing a home for the kids.  He would not be able to keep them otherwise.  And we cringe at the thought of where they would be if he could not do that.   Here are 4 precious little kids, who did not ask to be born to an unwed, alcoholic mother who comes from generational poverty.  They have a huge desire to learn and be "good kids", and they deserve a chance for a healthy, productive life.   It is the only way they can break the cycle that their mother and older siblings are caught up in. 

I understand this is not the most glowing report, there have been and will be many challenges to face in the future.  But with the love, prayers and support of many people, we are optimistic.

Until next time...

Monday, August 20, 2012

Ready for School

Last Thursday was a marathon day of school registration.  Chip and Annie will be returning to King Academy, Marquel at Sam Houston High School in San Antonio, and Charlie at our school in Bulverde

King Academy is an elementary and middle school combined.  It has been good for the girls because they can be with the same students and teachers through 8th grade.  For kids who have had so much trauma and uncertainty in their lives, the safety and stability of this type of setting has been good for their security.

At the high school, Marquel and I had the opportunity to sit down with the director of the magnet school which is located in the same building.  "New Tech" is a new concept in magnet schools, and we were able to have a lengthy conversation with the director.  He explained to Marquel that even though their fields of emphasis may not be what she continues with in college, it is a college prep program and she will have the opportunity gain some college credits.   They will also spend a considerable amount of time working on character development, studying book such as "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens". 

I was thrilled when Marquel said she would sign up for the program.  The magnet school classes will be in a different wing of the school, where she will be surrounded by kids who are serious about learning, with teachers who are extra dedicated to their students and helping them succeed.  The curriculum is more hands on, which will be good for Marquel.  It felt good to be able to visit with the director of the program, explain Marquel's background and needs, and know I had a contact person who was genuinely interested in each student.

I was also glad that Marquel had balked a little at purchasing the typical khaki pants, which is the uniform for San Antonio ISD.  In the magnet program she will be required to wear black pants, white polo shirts, and they will have "wear your favorite college t-shirt" and "wear your favorite sport t-shirt" days.  I will take her shopping one day this week for her new uniform clothes.

At King Academy I was able to sit down with the Communities in Schools counselor and begin to formulate a plan for Annie to help her succeed.  This is an awesome organization and we have relied on them heavily for help with school supplies for the kids.  If you see one of donations sites for "Stuff the Bus", please consider donating school supplies or money.  They have provided an invaluable source of counseling and support for the kids.

Because Annie will be involved in after-school sports, I signed Chip up for the after-school program run by the Boys and Girls Club.  The director is very dedicated to helping kids with their homework, which is great because Mr. Thornton has too many other things on his mind in the evenings.  It also gives Chip a little extra social time with kids his age.

Charlie is not ready for school to start.  He even told me he would prefer to stay home and do home school!  (Unfortunately, I do not feel "smarter than a 5th grader" and not sure I could accomplish this!)  I was surprised because he loves to be with his friends, but it made sense in that he is feeling more comfortable with us and wants to catch up on the "mom and me" time that he missed out on.  We have met his new behavior teacher and are encouraged by his dedication and willingness to listen to our ideas and concerns.

Over the past 7 years we have truly learned the meaning of "it takes a village to raise a child". We thank all of you who have helped the kids get the clothes, shoes and supplies they need to have a good start to school this fall - we couldn't do it without you!

Until next time. . .

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Back to School - Already!

August means back to school - already!  The summer has been busy.  The girls have enjoyed the Boys & Girls Club, making new friends and keeping active.  Charlie has been attending some local day camps and football conditioning camp started in June.  We appreciate all the coaches who get out there and help the boys stay fit and ready to play. After a mild start to our summer, the heat has finally arrived, and we spend lots of time at the pool. Last week Chip turned 7.  His birthday is marks the years since we met Turk and the kids.  Can't believe it has been a 7 year journey already.

The start of another school year means backpacks, school supplies and uniforms and shoes.  While uniforms make for hassle free mornings deciding what to wear, it also means a big expenditure for growing kids. We have searched out the charities and thrift stores in the past and those options have not been very fruitful.  It is important the kids can start their school year with all the supplies, good shoes and well fitting uniforms so that they can feel good about themselves.

Marquel will start high school this year.  She is a little nervous about going to a large school after being in a small and familiar environment the last 6 years.  Annie will be in 7th grade at King Academy (elementary and middle school combined).  She is looking forward to being involved in sports.  Chip will be going into 2nd grade.  Because Charlie lives with us and goes to school in Bulverde, he doesn't have to wear uniforms.

Each year I cringe a little when I have to ask for help for these kids.  But I always think back on little Marquel who started 3rd grade her first year in San Antonio.  She had no recollection of attending school in New Orleans.  We spent much of 3rd grade going over 1st and 2nd grade work in order for her to be able to do the 3rd grade assignments.  It was her determination and tenacity that pulled her through, and she has been on the AB Honor Roll each year since.

Marquel, Annie and Chip will need at least 3 pairs of pants and shirts each.  If you would like to help, here are several options:

1.  Tax Deductible cash donations can be made to St. John Lutheran Church (please indicate "Thornton Family Fund" on the check).  This fund is used 100% for family needs.

2.  Gift cards to Walmart, HEB, or Visa Gift cards are very welcome.  Please contact me for address to send them to.

3.  Cash donations can be sent to me through Paypal.  Again, contact me for instructions.

Because of your generosity each year, there are 4 kids who have had the opportunity to not only go to school, but to thrive.

Until next time. . .