At age 16, Alan was homeless, with no family or resources, walking the streets of Layton. A week before Christmas, Alan came to live at the home of foster parents Carl and Eva Goodfellow. Eva picks up the story from there:
When we found out we’d have another teen in our home for Christmas, we quickly scrambled to get presents through Utah Foster Care’s Giving Tree program for the new boy. Christmas morning came and my other children awoke bright and early, full of anticipation and joy.
At first, Alan did not join us. My husband finally went to Alan’s room and invited him upstairs. Begrudgingly, he sat down.
In our home, we have a tradition of opening one gift at a time, beginning with the youngest. There were six children in all, and Alan was the oldest. As we worked through the names, Alan sat in the corner of the room and did not engage in the conversation. Then, a gift was pulled from under the tree and his name was called. He looked as if he was in shock.
“Me?” he asked.
We came to learn that poverty and neglect was something Alan had experienced his entire 16 years. But in that moment that we handed a gift to him, I realized this was this boy’s first Christmas experience.
The gift was a bike –the first bike he had ever owned. Words cannot express the joy I felt that day, as I watched a 16-year old melt into a child. He felt part of a family and a community of caring people. It was an amazing day that has left a forever imprint on my heart.
The bike was the first of many “firsts.” Alan’s first family vacation. Summer festivals. Backyard barbeques. Family camping trips.
Alan graduated high school and enrolled in the Job Corps firefighting program, helping battle wild land fires for the Forest Service last summer – giving back to his community. My husband and I are so proud of the young man Alan has become – and so glad to be part of this amazing community of foster parents who give older kids like Alan a second chance.
Alan’s Christmas experience was possible only through the donations of generous individuals, businesses and community groups. The Giving Tree is one of many donor-funded programs at Utah Foster Care that make life better for children in foster care, right here in Utah.