Hello again from everyone at the OM@home blog, a blog about children and young people, written for children and young people . . . . For young people just like you, about young people who inspire us here at OM HQ.
Young people like Angelo Whittis . . . .
He's an honor roll student and the starting Quarterback for his High School football team . . .
He lives in a loving home, he adores the family's latest addition and, in the coming months, he'll be preparing to head to college.
There's no question that life is rather good for Angelo right now . . .
But it hasn't always been the case.
Less than two years ago, the troubled teenager was homeless, sometimes finding a car to sleep in, on a good night bedding down in a friend's basement. He often found himself in trouble and became known to the police. He had no family, and for a time, no-one who cared about him.
'Growing up wasn't easy, not knowing my father, my mother in and out of the system,' explains Angelo, who lived, for a short time, with his grandmother and then his uncle, although both relatives found themselves unable to care for him as a result of their respective problems with alcohol. 'It was tough, not knowing when I was going to eat again or where I was going to sleep; going to this family, or that family, not knowing how long I was going to be there before they'd become tired of me and tell me to leave.'
That he ended up on the streets and began to turn to crime is, perhaps, inevitable. That he has managed to turn his life around in such a dramatic fashion is astonishing . . .
It's thanks, in a large part, to Cory Parker, football coach at River Rouge High School where, having enrolled in an attempt to put his mounting troubles behind him, Angelo signed up for the team.
He showed great promise, although off the field, his problems persisted. Having realized that a young man with huge potential had no home to call his own, Coach Parker took the unprecedented step of inviting Angelo to share his.
'I just said to him, 'I want to open up my home to you if that's what it takes to make you better',' recalls the coach, although having never experienced it before, Angelo had to learn how to live as part of a family. 'He'd eat and then always just go to his room and shut the door. The next job for me was to find a way to bring him out of his shell.'
It took a little time, lots of patience and a great deal of love. But the Parkers embraced Angelo and, after a while, the bond strong, he started to thrive.
'It meant such a lot to me,' he admits. 'I felt like I was special, for the first time in my life I felt like I was somebody. For him (Coach Parker) to take me in was a blessing. I learned how to open up to the family. I just thought that if they're going to be here for me, I should be here for them.'
Cory, and his wife Autumn, have, in recent times had a baby, a little boy with whom Angelo shares a special connection.
'He (Angelo) comes in every day and talks to him and plays with him and they've got a relationship that's going to continue for a long time,' says Autumn.
'I love him,' says Cory. 'I love him as if I'd brought him into the world myself. He has been here for just two years, but it feels like such a long time because every moment is a moment together. Anyone who can go through what this kid has been through in one lifetime - to keep getting knocked down and getting back up again - is amazing'.
Here at OM®, we couldn't agree more . . .
This is a story that we're sharing for several reasons. Because it's about love, friendship and connection. Because it underlines the importance of families and of nurturing and helping others. Because it proves that we all have great potential, even if unlocking it can sometimes be difficult. Because it demonstrates that, no matter how bad things get, it's never too late to turn your life around. You might need someone else to believe in you. You always need to believe in yourself.
Here's to Angelo, for opening up, accepting help and refusing to be beaten. Here's to Cory, for giving so much for someone else and for setting such an example. Here's to love and to families.
Here's to never giving in . . .