casa to marine: sarahann's story
BY JERÉ ANTHONY
Have you ever finished something that was harder than anything you’ve ever done in your life? Maybe you ran a marathon, graduated from college, or raised a child alone… you fill in the blank. We all have stuff that we are trying to accomplish, people we aspire to be like, and experiences we want to live out in life. All it takes is the courage to try, one intentional decision to put yourself out there and you may be surprised by what you were able to accomplish. We get to choose who we are in this life and we can be the heroes in our own stories.
I am always inspired when I hear stories about people who are living out their dreams. It is so easy to let go of dreams and goals because we will have to sacrifice something in order to attain it. I have recently realized that whatever it is that you are called to do, be it your destiny or your purpose, it isn’t supposed to be easy. In fact, many times it is the harder thing, the higher road. This realization was profound and changed my entire view on life.
Sarahann Temple, CASA volunteer for the 5th JDC, recently made a decision to make her dream a reality by enrolling in the United States Marine Corps. Sarahann served as a dedicated CASA for almost 2 years and has played a vital role in her CASA children’s wellbeing. Whether she was digging around for more information to help the Judge or just being supportive to all parties involved, her role is one that has been essential in paving the path to permanency for her CASA children. During her time as a CASA, Sarahann was able to aid in removing the children from an unsafe foster home and follow them in their transition to a safe placement.
On October 20, Sarahann stood up for her CASA children in court and spoke up for their best interest, just 3 days before leaving to become a United States Marine. We are so happy to report that Sarahann has graduated from boot camp and is living out her dream. Friends and family members alike are all so proud of her hard work and dedication in finishing what she set out to do. As an agency, we couldn’t be happier to have had someone like Sarahann as a representative.
This is just one example of the extraordinary character that it takes to be a volunteer. I am so proud to work for an agency that empowers everyday citizens to be heroes in the lives of children. The reality is that everyone that is involved in our program has success stories, everyone is already doing more than the average citizen by choosing to give their extra time to help someone other than themselves. My hope is that by reading this, you will feel spiritually fed and encouraged to test the waters in your own life. Everyone deserves to feel the triumph of accomplishing their dreams. We are capable of so much. Stop waiting for something easy to happen to you, instead lean into the uncomfortable situations and explore what is on the other side. When you reach your goal, we will be here to celebrate along side you.
NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS
BY JERÉ ANTHONY
It is a new year and you are now faced with a clean canvas to paint your next year of experiences. What will you choose to do with your blank slate?
As a self-proclaimed New Year’s Resolution Enthusiast, I would like to offer some suggestions as well as encouragement. I find that setting goals can be very motivating and leave the feeling of triumph, as slowly but surely things begin to be crossed off of your list. I also think there is power in speaking your goals and dreams out loud, or even better sharing with a trusted friend. This can create accountability and help motivate you when times get tough.
Here are a few of my suggestions to add your list of resolutions:
I hope you are inspired to take down some of the resolutions and feel empowered to take 2017 by storm. Remember you have already accomplished more than most people because you are volunteering your time and changing lives. That is certainly something to be proud of!
Lianca's christmas miracle
BY JERÉ ANTHONY
As the sirens fly by me I press my fingertips to my lips and touch my heart, it’s really the only thing to do when encountering the unknown of a medical emergency. I say a silent prayer for the family involved but I can’t say that I’ve ever taken the time to revisit the thought. When tragedy strikes it is hard to put a face to the victims involved. We all feel it in our gut because we know what pain feels like in some form or fashion and everyone has experienced loss in their own ways.
I was recently given the privilege of meeting a courageous young woman who has already lived through a lifetime of grief and loss. When Lianca Wilson was 12 years old her entire life changed. She was involved in a car wreck, which took her mother’s life. She quickly became that unknown person who was suffering that we find ourselves praying for, in that very instant Lianca became an orphan.
Unlike many of the children in the foster care system that are victims of abuse and neglect, Lianca went from being a child who was loved and cared for to being alone and having no one to call her family. Her first placement was with an aunt who would ultimately become financially unable to care for her. As a result of this, her custody was given over the Department of Children and Family Services rendering her available for adoption.
I wish I could say that the loss of her mother was going to be Lianca’s rock bottom. In 2012, Lianca became ill and was diagnosed with Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia, a rare form of Leukemia that required her to undergo intense chemotherapy treatment at St. Jude’s Medical Research Hospital. Lianca went through rigorous chemo treatment for 10 months that tested her inner and outer source of strength.
Lianca experienced a reprieve from her bout of adversity when she went into remission in 2014. Although she had already overcome 2 major tragedies in life, she remained sweet and loving, and was always a joy to be around.
The idea of being part of a family again was Lianca’s sole desire. Her first foster care placement was a wonderful fit for Lianca, but it wouldn’t be a permanent one. Her foster parents loved her and agreed that she could live with them until she aged out of the system on her eighteenth birthday. While this was wonderful news that she wouldn’t have to change homes again, Lianca still held on to her dream to have a real family that she was apart of.
In 2016 tragedy struck once more for Lianca, her foster father with whom she was extremely close, fell ill and passed away. Little did she know that this misfortune would be the catalyst for the biggest change in all of her 17 years. As her foster mother was grieving, she took a trip out of state and Lianca was temporarily placed into another foster home with Miss Vernice Carter.
From the moment that Lianca entered Miss Carter’s home, things were different. She seemed to click with Miss Carter and they formed a bond that could only be described as family. It was like they were bound by blood and Miss Carter knew that she had to make Lianca part of her family, but she had to hurry.
Lianca’s dream to be adopted was running out of time as her eighteenth birthday approached. As a true testament to her loving nature and kind spirit, Lianca had everyone on board to pull the right strings to have her adoption completed in time. Attorneys, Child Welfare workers and Judges aligned to a common goal and were able to pull it off in record time. On December 15, 2016 Lianca was adopted, just 10 days shy of her eighteenth birthday.
I was honored to be present during the ceremony and there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. I can think of no one who deserved her happily ever after more than Lianca. Surrounded by her biggest fans, CASA workers, and DCFS staff; Lianca was transformed from orphan to daughter with the signature of the judge. Just like that her fairy tale was complete and I am happy to report that the ending looks very promising for this very special girl.
So it seems the prayers we speak in our hearts as the ambulance rushes by are not in vain and time is the healer of all wounds. She may have been broken down time and time again, but Lianca has lived a life worth telling about. In her 17 years she has experienced grief, loss, healing, and unconditional love like no other. Lucky for us, she’s not finished yet.