As I reflect on over 33 years of experience with Boys Hope Girls Hope, my mind is drawn to the many voices and faces the program has touched along the way. I recall my first meeting with Father Paul Sheridan, SJ, as he shared with me his vision-his dream of Boys Hope. (In those days there was not a Girls Hope.) His dream was so simple. A loving home for boys in great need, an education to ensure a bright future, and values imparted that would create “persons for others” for the greater glory and honor of God. It was the latter that would define if the program was successful for a young person. I still see his excited face, his eyes dancing as he shared his dream. Most of all I remember the experience of his gentle heart. His dream coincided with mine as I was becoming disillusioned as an administrator of a large residential childcare center that was losing its effectiveness in the lives of children due to state mandates and bureaucracy. At the time, my life’s journey was headed in a different direction only to be constantly taking a turn toward the mission of Boys Hope.
A couple of years later, I found myself as the houseparent and Program Director of our Cincinnati affiliate. I never thought those seven years, which continually bring joy to my heart, would have an impact on my very being. I soon learned in my first weeks that realizing the dream goes slowly, day-by-day, moment-by-moment, and that such heartfelt work grows in grace and becomes pure. Moments, so many wonderful moments from that time. Adam becoming president of his class, Ray napping in his bed clutching his skateboard, Wade sending his allowance to a family in need he read about in the National Enquirer as we waited in the grocery checkout line, Shawn holding and playing with our dog Scamper for hours, Jason’s excitement as he received a call from a girl in school he had been smitten with, Craig charming every house visitor, Shane’s sheer exuberance in winning districts in AAA Cross Country, Peter’s innate innocence and goodness and his compassion for others, our Boys Hope family vacations, hundreds of hours at athletic practices and games, watching the boys eating seconds and thirds at dinner, the day all the boys made the honor role for the first time of many, shrieks of joy as the boys came downstairs to see what Santa had brought, our spontaneous hooky from school to take a family mental health day and cut loose in the depth of winter, and the Christmas family dinner at a German themed restaurant in which we won an interpretive competition for the song little Red Riding Hood with the prize of pitchers of beer for the table.(To the boys’ dismay, we traded our beer for root beer.) Of course there were sad moments. Those moments are ours alone but remain very much a part of the tapestry of our lives together.
Yes, those times where very special, and I was not only blessed by the boys, but also, by sharing of the Boys Hope vision with my colleagues, Nancy, Cookie, and Rey, who taught me so many lessons through their expertise and dedication in helping children, and the witnessing of so many who gave of their resources in order that we could have the opportunity to care for the children entrusted to us. It is such a gift to see the boys from my memories grow to be good and decent men. The Boys Hope dream realized- a dream Sister Nancy and I shared with them every chance we had, day after day for years. They haven’t realized all the dreams we had for them, nor taken the path we would may have chosen for them, but they found their dreams and their paths.
Sadly, we lost one of them who now remains in the memory of our hearts. Of course, their success at life is also, and most importantly, the result of loving parents who selflessly made the decision that Boys Hope Girls Hope would be a stepping-stone to the life they too dreamed for their children.
The blessings continued beyond the Cincinnati affiliate as I joined the International Office, which for years has given me the opportunity to assist others in realizing their vision for children. Again, more voices and faces fill my life with moments – memories of boys and girls, house parents, administrators, Board members and international office colleagues who have for over the years enriched my life beyond what anyone deserves. Moments, that if written, could lead to hundreds of pages of treasured experiences and grace that cannot be measured.
If asked today what is Boys Hope Girls Hope, I would answer that it is a dream imparted to me many years ago – the dream of a loving home for boys and girls, an education for a bright future, and values imparted that will create “persons for others” for the greater glory an honor of our God.
It is my prayer that the scholars entrusted to our care will grow to become good and decent women and men, good spouses, good mothers and fathers, good providers, and people who care about others. I fervently hope they experience Boys Hope Girls Hope as a love enveloping them, comforting them, and leading them to their dreams. It is also my prayer that Boys Hope Girls Hope will continually be blessed with men and women who share the vision and selflessly give of themselves to lead scholars entrusted to our care toward realizing their dreams for their future. May they know the joy I have been given.
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