Growing up in NYC in the 80’s was tough; more-so for kids like myself than many. I unfortunately got to see the beautiful side and the ugly side. I was about 4 years old from what I can remember of my earliest experience dealing with discomfort. I was living with a great uncle that took me in at an early age, but I did not have a room. I slept in the living room on a small mattress with my older brother. That stay was short and due to unfortunate circumstances I was eventually put in a foster home. The foster homes that I experienced were no place for a kid. I often felt a high sense of anxiety because I didn’t have a safe place to rest. I was in foster homes with two younger female cousins and the three of us reminisce sometimes about how we all had to share a single mattress on a bed or pull-out couch at times. We lived in homes with strangers, with other orphans, and we often slept in discomfort with tears in our eyes and broken hearts. Even though we were together there were times we struggled with loneliness and abandonment issues. We all remember a time when we slept on a pull-out couch together and could feel each spring and pole pressing against each of our backs; making it a very long, uncomfortable and arduous night.
Eventually we were all found and taken in by our mother’s brothers. Though in separate homes; we all stayed connected and spoke about the past and our new and welcoming environments. Yet, we never felt whole. Without our actual parents there to tuck us into bed it never felt permanent. My older brother eventually ran away, my mother died of alcohol poison and my father died from AIDS due to drug use. My mother’s brother and his wife then decided to adopt me and became my legal guardians. They raised me in amazing homes with their kids for which I am forever grateful.
I eventually went to college and soon was living off-campus where I purchased my own mattress. No words can describe how it felt to purchase and own my own mattress. It was mine – clean, unused, not to be shared by anyone unless I decided so. I felt whole. I was no longer going to be shuffled, tossed around or asked to bag my things and prepare for the next move to another foster home or shelter.
I joined the military in March of 2000 and my fellow soldiers were always surprised that I could make anything home and anything into a bed, even the hood of a Humvee in the middle of the forest on a cold night. What they didn’t know was that I was watching the stars and enjoying the warmth of the engine that was in use by the soldiers that were on night watch. They didn’t realize that the comfort of the security of my fellow soldiers and the stars above meant everything to me.
Today, I own my home along with my wife as we raise our son (Ethan) and our daughter (Celine). Their beds are theirs. We allow them to take ownership of them. When my daughter was one year old, I would sit aside her as she slept in the Queen-sized guest bed. I would place her smack dab in the middle of the bed just so she would enjoy the comfort of the best part of the bed then lay aside her and wake with her only to reposition her to head back to sleep. As a father, which I always wanted be, this was everything to me. I wanted to know my kids were 10 times better off than I was as a kid. As a parent, I wanted my children to be comfortable with a bed full of comfort items that would create a safe space for them each night.
I have also had the honor and pleasure of working closely with the Precious Dreams Foundation as a volunteer, board member and guest speaker. The organization provides bedtime comfort items and helps children in foster care and homeless shelters adjust to their short or long-term stay in the system. PDF allowed me the ability to not only give back to kids that are in the same situation that I was once in, but it also gave me a platform to tell my story in an effort to motivate the kids I encountered at each foster home. Having the ability to provide comfort to those in foster care means the world to me as a father, a son and as a former foster child. The Precious Dreams Foundations has done an amazing job at creating and providing comfort to many children in and out of New York City. They are a beacon of hope and joy that arrives during each visit and the children are then reminded that they have not been forgotten about.
To get involved and give the gift of comfort this holiday season, you can donate to Precious Dreams Foundation by visiting https://donate.purple.com/precious-dreams/. Just $25 provides a child a comfort bag full of bedtime comfort items. 100% of all donations go directly to children in need, so you can take comfort in knowing what you give is what these precious children receive.