This mom-daughter relationship proves older kids in foster care are worth a second look.
True
Ad Council - Adopt US Kids

Ever since Liz was a young girl, she knew she wanted to adopt.

This feeling only solidified as she grew into a determined and passionate woman.

As a teacher of 20-plus years and an avid community service provider, she always felt pulled toward the idea of helping kids in need.


"I knew there were a lot of children in the world that needed good homes," Liz said.

Photo by Liz.

However, when Liz was diagnosed with uterine cancer at 27, she had to put her adoption plans on hold.

On top of that, Liz was in her 30s and caring for her sick mother, so she didn't formally start looking to become an adoptive parent until she was in her early 40s.

By that time, Liz had also been in remission for 13 years, which she counted as a sign to move forward.

But her friends weren't entirely on board with her adoption plan.

Liz wanted to foster to adopt, meaning she'd foster a child in the foster care system with the intention of adopting. Several of her friends thought she was asking for trouble. They couldn't understand why she didn't want to adopt a baby.

But a baby wasn’t Liz’s plan. She’d always had a soft spot for older kids, which is why she didn't hesitate to start the course to become a foster parent.

Once you get through the training, they assign you a social worker and put your information in the system so that kids' social workers can find and match you.

Liz was first scheduled to meet a 13-year-old girl. But when the girl's social worker met with Liz during a preliminary house inspection, she made an unusual recommendation.

She told Liz she thought she had an even better match for her, but the girl in question, Ashley, was 15.

Ashley. Photo via AdoptUsKids. Used with permission.

To the social worker's surprise, Liz was totally on board to meet Ashley instead.

Their first meeting was in January 2012 at an ice cream shop. It was a bit awkward, especially considering the social worker was sitting at the table with them, but the two got along well despite that.

So they set up weekly get-togethers and phone conversations to see if they were the right fit for each other.

"Once we started to talk, we bonded quickly," writes Ashley in an email.

"Ashley and I say it’s like we dated," Liz jokes.

Ashley (left) and Liz (right) eating ice cream.

So, after about six weeks of "dating," Ashley moved into Liz's house and started at the local high school — Westford Academy.

There was an adjustment period, to be sure, especially in terms of her academic life. Ashley's education was full of gaps, partially because her birth mother had taken her out of school for long stretches of time and Westford was a rather prestigious school. But Liz worked with Ashley to help her catch up, and eventually her grades improved.

Ashley also went to therapy regularly to help her cope with all the trauma she experienced as a child.

And slowly but surely, she began to feel more secure in her life with Liz. The two became close.

"I realized that I was comfortable when I started to share things with her about my past," Ashley recalls.

Eventually, Ashley started calling Liz "Mom."

Liz (left) and Ashley (right). Photo via Liz Benstead.

About a year after Ashley moved in with Liz, Liz officially adopted her. Ashley was 16 at the time, making her the oldest child to be adopted in Massachusetts in 2012.

"I was excited," said Ashley in an Ad Council interview. "[I'd] finally have a forever home."

Needless to say, it was a big moment for both mom and daughter. But it was just the beginning of experiences that would bring them closer together.

Liz took Ashley on her first major trip somewhere — they went to Las Vegas. They often get mani-pedis together, and they made a ritual of cooking together, although Liz jokes that Ashley's a way better cook than she is.

Liz also helped her get into volunteering — a passion they both independently shared.

They started a nonprofit called Suitcases of Hope, which provides kids in foster care with their own duffle bags filled with comfort items like sheets, a toothbrush, even a stuffed animal.

"Most kids have to throw all their clothes into garbage bags when they move to a new foster home," Liz says. This personal duffle bag is something that can really feel like theirs.

Aside from Suitcases, between high school and college, Ashley also joined the AmeriCorps City Year program, which connects volunteers with underserved kids who are struggling in school.

The experience helped her get into Central Piedmont Community College, where she achieved a 4.0 GPA. She plans to transfer soon to a four-year college.

According to Liz, Ashley often says the 15-year-old she was wouldn't recognize the young woman she's become — in the best way.

Liz and Ashley traveling in New York City together. Photo via Liz Benstead.

On the flip side, Liz says Ashley's made her more patient, resilient, and understanding. Now that Ashley's in her life, she's smiling and laughing much more often.

That said, Ashley doesn't shy away from telling her story. In fact, she and her mom often speak publicly about adoption, which is how they eventually got connected with AdoptUSKids — a national organization that helps support child welfare systems.

"She is ... determined to say to the world, 'Look, I was in foster care, I've been neglected and abused, and guess what, I made it,'" Liz says.

"I'm no longer doubting myself a lot, I don't have low self-esteem," said Ashley in an Ad Council interview. "And that's all thanks to my mom."

If Ashley could tell prospective adoptive parents anything, it would be to not overlook the foster care system.

"Ignore any misconceptions about foster kids. Every child wants to be loved," Ashley says.

To learn more about adoption and awesome teens like Ashley, check out AdoptUsKids, or contact them via phone, email or chat. And to hear more about Ashley and Liz, check out the video below:

Courtesy of Macy's

Brantley and his snowman

True

"Would you like to build a snowman?" If you asked five-year-old Brantley from Texas this question, the answer would be a resounding "Yes!" While it may sound like a simple dream, since Texas doesn't usually see much snow, it seemed like a lofty one for him, even more so because Brantley has a congenital heart disease.

On Dec. 11, 2019, however, the real Macy's Santa and his two elves teamed up with Make-A-Wish to surprise Brantley and his family on his way to Colorado where there was plenty of snow for him to build his very own snowman, fulfilling his wish as part of the Macy's Believe campaign. After a joy-filled plane ride where every passenger got gift bags from Macy's, the family arrived in Breckenridge, Colorado where Santa and his elves helped Brantley build a snowman.

Brantley, Brantley's mom, and Santa marveling at their snowmanAll photos courtesy of Macy's

Brantley, who according to his mom had never actually seen snow, was blown away by the experience.

"Well, I had to build a snowman because snowmen are my favorite," Brantley said in an interview with Summit Daily. "All of it was my favorite part."

This is just one example of the more than 330,000 wishes the nonprofit Make-A-Wish have fulfilled to bring joy to children fighting critical illnesses since its founding 40 years ago. Even though many of the children that Make-A-Wish grants wishes for manage or overcome their illnesses, they often face months, if not years of doctor's visits, hospital stays and uncomfortable treatments. The nonprofit helps these children and their families replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy and anxiety with hope.

It's hardly an outlandish notion — research shows that a wish come true can help increase these children's resiliency and improve their quality of life. Brantley is a prime example.

"This couldn't have come at a better time because we see all the hardships that we went through last year," Brantley's mom Brandi told Summit Daily.

Brantley playing with snowballs

Now more than ever, kids with critical illnesses need hope. Since they're particularly vulnerable to disease, they and their families have had to isolate even more during the pandemic and avoid the people they love most and many of the activities that recharge them. That's why Make-A-Wish is doing everything it can to fulfill wishes in spite of the unprecedented obstacles.

That's where you come in. Macy's has raised over $132 million for Make-A-Wish, and helped grant more than 15,500 wishes since their partnership began in 2003, but they couldn't have done that without the support of everyday people. The crux of that support comes from Macy's Believe Campaign — the longstanding holiday fundraising effort where for every letter to Santa that's written online at Macys.com or dropped off safely at the red Believe mailbox at their stores, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. New this year, National Believe Day will be expanded to National Believe Week and will provide customers the opportunity to double their donations ($2 per letter, up to an additional $1 million) for a full week from Sunday, Nov. 29 through Saturday, Dec. 5.

There are more ways to support Make-A-Wish besides letter-writing too. If you purchase a $4 Believe bracelet, $2 of each bracelet will be donated to Make-A-Wish through Dec. 31. And for families who are all about the holiday PJs, on Giving Tuesday (Dec. 1), 20 percent of the purchase price of select family pajamas will benefit Make-A-Wish.

Elizabeth living out her wish of being a fashion designer

Additionally, this year's campaign features 6-year-old Elizabeth, a Make-A-Wish child diagnosed with leukemia, whose wish to design a dress recently came true. Thanks to the style experts at Macy's Fashion Office and I.N.C. International Concepts, only at Macy's, Elizabeth had the opportunity to design a colorful floral maxi dress. Elizabeth's exclusive design is now available online at Macys.com and in select Macy's stores. In the spirit of giving back this holiday season, 20 percent of the purchase price of Elizabeth's dress (through Dec. 31) will benefit Make-A-Wish.You can also donate directly to Make-A-Wish via Macy's website.

This holiday season may be a tough one this year, but you can bring joy to children fighting critical illnesses by delivering hope for their wishes to come true.

With vaccine rollouts for the novel coronavirus on the horizon, humanity is getting its first ray of hope for a return to normalcy in 2021. That normalcy, however, will depend on enough people's willingness to get the vaccine to achieve some level of herd immunity. While some people are ready to jump in line immediately for the vaccine, others are reticent to get the shots.

Hesitancy runs the gamut from outright anti-vaxxers to people who trust the time-tested vaccines we already have but are unsure about these new ones. Scientists have tried to educate the public about the development of the new mRNA vaccines and why they feel confident in their safety, but getting that information through the noise of hot takes and misinformation is tricky.

To help increase the public's confidence in taking the vaccine, three former presidents have volunteered to get their shots on camera. President George W. Bush initially reached out to Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx to ask how he could help promote a vaccine once it's approved. Presidents Obama and Bill Clinton have both stated that they will take the vaccine if it is approved and will do so publicly if it will help more people feel comfortable taking it. CNN says it has also reached out to President Jimmy Carter to see if he is on board with the idea as well.

A big part of responsible leadership is setting an example. Though these presidents are no longer in the position of power they once held, they are in a position of influence and have offered to use that influence for the greater good.

Keep Reading Show less
Courtesy of Macy's

Brantley and his snowman

True

"Would you like to build a snowman?" If you asked five-year-old Brantley from Texas this question, the answer would be a resounding "Yes!" While it may sound like a simple dream, since Texas doesn't usually see much snow, it seemed like a lofty one for him, even more so because Brantley has a congenital heart disease.

On Dec. 11, 2019, however, the real Macy's Santa and his two elves teamed up with Make-A-Wish to surprise Brantley and his family on his way to Colorado where there was plenty of snow for him to build his very own snowman, fulfilling his wish as part of the Macy's Believe campaign. After a joy-filled plane ride where every passenger got gift bags from Macy's, the family arrived in Breckenridge, Colorado where Santa and his elves helped Brantley build a snowman.

Brantley, Brantley's mom, and Santa marveling at their snowmanAll photos courtesy of Macy's

Brantley, who according to his mom had never actually seen snow, was blown away by the experience.

"Well, I had to build a snowman because snowmen are my favorite," Brantley said in an interview with Summit Daily. "All of it was my favorite part."

This is just one example of the more than 330,000 wishes the nonprofit Make-A-Wish have fulfilled to bring joy to children fighting critical illnesses since its founding 40 years ago. Even though many of the children that Make-A-Wish grants wishes for manage or overcome their illnesses, they often face months, if not years of doctor's visits, hospital stays and uncomfortable treatments. The nonprofit helps these children and their families replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy and anxiety with hope.

It's hardly an outlandish notion — research shows that a wish come true can help increase these children's resiliency and improve their quality of life. Brantley is a prime example.

"This couldn't have come at a better time because we see all the hardships that we went through last year," Brantley's mom Brandi told Summit Daily.

Brantley playing with snowballs

Now more than ever, kids with critical illnesses need hope. Since they're particularly vulnerable to disease, they and their families have had to isolate even more during the pandemic and avoid the people they love most and many of the activities that recharge them. That's why Make-A-Wish is doing everything it can to fulfill wishes in spite of the unprecedented obstacles.

That's where you come in. Macy's has raised over $132 million for Make-A-Wish, and helped grant more than 15,500 wishes since their partnership began in 2003, but they couldn't have done that without the support of everyday people. The crux of that support comes from Macy's Believe Campaign — the longstanding holiday fundraising effort where for every letter to Santa that's written online at Macys.com or dropped off safely at the red Believe mailbox at their stores, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. New this year, National Believe Day will be expanded to National Believe Week and will provide customers the opportunity to double their donations ($2 per letter, up to an additional $1 million) for a full week from Sunday, Nov. 29 through Saturday, Dec. 5.

There are more ways to support Make-A-Wish besides letter-writing too. If you purchase a $4 Believe bracelet, $2 of each bracelet will be donated to Make-A-Wish through Dec. 31. And for families who are all about the holiday PJs, on Giving Tuesday (Dec. 1), 20 percent of the purchase price of select family pajamas will benefit Make-A-Wish.

Elizabeth living out her wish of being a fashion designer

Additionally, this year's campaign features 6-year-old Elizabeth, a Make-A-Wish child diagnosed with leukemia, whose wish to design a dress recently came true. Thanks to the style experts at Macy's Fashion Office and I.N.C. International Concepts, only at Macy's, Elizabeth had the opportunity to design a colorful floral maxi dress. Elizabeth's exclusive design is now available online at Macys.com and in select Macy's stores. In the spirit of giving back this holiday season, 20 percent of the purchase price of Elizabeth's dress (through Dec. 31) will benefit Make-A-Wish.You can also donate directly to Make-A-Wish via Macy's website.

This holiday season may be a tough one this year, but you can bring joy to children fighting critical illnesses by delivering hope for their wishes to come true.

Anne Owens and Luke Redito / Wikimedia Commons
True

When Madeline Swegle was a little girl growing up in Burke, VA, she loved watching the Blue Angels zip through the sky. Her family went to see the display every time it was in town, and it was her parents' encouragement to pursue her dreams that led her to the U.S. Naval Academy in 2017.

Before beginning the intense three-year training required to become a tactical air (TACAIR) pilot, Swegle had never been in an aircraft before; piloting was simply something she was interested in. It turns out she's got a gift for it—and not only is she skilled, she finds the "exhilaration to be unmatched."

"I'm excited to have this opportunity to work harder and fly high performance jet aircraft in the fleet," Swegle said in a statement released by the Navy. "It would've been nice to see someone who looked like me in this role; I never intended to be the first. I hope it's encouraging to other people."

As Swegle's story shows, representation and equality matter. And the responsibility to advance equality for all people - especially Black Americans facing racism - falls on individuals, organizations, businesses, and governmental leadership. This clear need for equality is why P&G established the Take On Race Fund to fight for justice, advance economic opportunity, enable greater access to education and health care, and make our communities more equitable. The funds raised go directly into organizations like NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, YWCA Stand Against Racism and the United Negro College Fund, helping to level the playing field.

Keep Reading Show less

Just a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down...in the most delightful way.

There are certain songs from kids' movies that most of us can sing along to, but we often don't know how they originated. Now we have a timely insight into one such song—"A Spoonful of Sugar" from "Mary Poppins."

It's common for parents to try all kinds of tricks to get kids to take medications they don't want to take, but the inspiration for "A Spoonful of Sugar" was much more specific. Jeffrey Sherman, the son and nephew of the Sherman Brothers—the musical duo responsible not just for "Mary Poppins," but a host of Disney films including "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," "The Jungle Book," "The Aristocats," as well as the song "It's a Small World After All"—told the story of how "A Spoonful of Sugar" came about on Facebook.

He wrote:

Keep Reading Show less