She was adopted at 17. Then, a stranger who'd 'been where she is' offered to help pay for college.

As a child in the foster system, Ashley Lacasse had already attended 19 different schools by the time she was 17. But now she has a stable home and the opportunity to attend college, thanks to her two adoptive moms and the generosity of a perfect stranger.


"There's sort of this unspoken rule with older kids that are in the system," Ashley told her new moms, "and once you hit about 10 years old, nobody wants you anymore and you will never find a family."

That sense of hopelessness is why Ashley is adamant about sharing her good fortune of being adopted in January by Zoe and Amanda Jette Knox, who live in Ottawa, Canada. But she had no idea how much brighter her future would soon get.

This happy chain of events all started when Ashley befriended Amanda and Zoe's daughter, Alexis. Ashley was in a heartbreaking foster placement that left her crying every day, and Alexis advocated for her friend to join their family. When Alexis' older brother moved out to get his own place at the age of 21, Ashley moved in.

RELATED: They almost lost hope in foster care, but these teens found their happy ending instead.

Ashley's adoptive mom, Amanda, is the bestselling author of Love Lives Here, and even she is surprised by the sweet and happy ending to this story. Not only does she have a new daughter she loves every bit as much as her biological children, but an anonymous stranger who heard about the adoption has offered to contribute towards Ashley's college education.

Amanda shared her excitement in a tweet thread that went viral:

"Yesterday, the BBC published a piece about my wife & I adopting our teen daughter. Today I got an email from someone who offered to help pay her college tuition because they've been where she is, and today they can. So they did. They really did. Holy cow, people are amazing.

I'm keeping this vague because the person (understandably) wishes to remain anonymous. But they had no idea who we were until they read the article, found a way to contact me and we've since spoken on the phone and I'm still processing their incredible kindness and generosity.

Ashley is on cloud nine. She just can't believe it. We haven't had much time to save for her tuition, so this help is seriously life-changing. It makes everything easier. This person changed everything, and I know we're all hoping to meet in person someday."


Within days, Ashley applied to enter a baking program at a local college. Amanda describes her as a talented baker and reports that they are awaiting a response to her application. The good news of the anonymous donation touched the hearts of many people online, with countless tweets praising the generosity of the donor. Life has turned around in a big way for a young lady who had been through so much.

While Ashley was excited to be adopted after bouncing around the foster care system, Amanda is quick to point out that Ashley already has a mom and that nobody is being "replaced." Now she has three moms!

"I think it's really important to acknowledge that Ashley has a good relationship with her biological family and that her joining our family also means that her biological family is a part of our family. I really think sometimes we villainize or at the very least really misunderstand parents whose children are in care. They love her very, very much. Our job is not to replace them. Our job is to help them provide stability for her, so that she can keep having relationships with them, and keep growing as a person," Amanda explained.

RELATED: When this man told his foster care story, people listened — 39 million people.

Amanda offered her advice for parents considering fostering or adoption:

"The biggest thing to know is that just because a kid has been through trauma doesn't mean that they're not deserving of love. I think sometimes people shy away from this idea of fostering or adopting an older child because of the things that they could have gone through and what that could mean. And yes, certainly there can be attachment issues, and yes, certainly it can be more challenging in some areas. But when you create that trust and when that love really starts to grow, it is so worth it. It is the most amazing experience….So I would say go for it, and know that your own experiences, if you've had any struggles yourself, your own experiences can really help you parent better."

The gift of tuition was life-changing, like the shared gift of adoption and a new family member. Amanda summed it up beautifully in saying, "We have three biological children and I really do love Ashley just as much. She has taken a piece of our heart in a really good way and it's surprised me how much I can love this amazing kid."

Alison Tedford is an Indigenous freelance writer from Abbotsford, BC, Canada. She blogs on Sparkly Shoes and Sweat Drops and operates Feel Better Marketing.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."

Ndakasi and Virunga National Park ranger André Bauma.

Fourteen years ago, Ndakasi the mountain gorilla was found clinging to her dead mother in the Congo after bushmeat hunters wiped out her entire family. This week it was announced that she recently passed away in the arms of Virunga National Park ranger André Bauma, the man who rescued her.

Bauma served as Ndakasi's caretaker since he brought her to the park's Senkwekwe Center, where she was rehabilitated along with another orphaned gorilla named Ndeke. Unable to be safely returned to the wild, Ndakasi lived her life in Virunga, where mountain gorilla conservation is a priority.

The park shared a touching photo and announcement of Ndakasi's passing on Facebook. The gorilla had been suffering from a prolonged illness, and her condition had rapidly deteriorated. A photo shows Bauma sitting on a blanket leaning up against the wall with Ndakasi lying next to him, her head on his chest and her toes gripping his boot.

"Ndakasi took her final breath in the loving arms of her caretaker and lifelong friend, André Bauma," reads the post.

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!