GALA TRIBUTE 2023
and Art From the Heart Art Auction
This year, Tidewater Friends of Foster Care celebrates our 7th anniversary as a non-profit in Hampton Roads helping our community’s most vulnerable children. Thanks to all of our amazing supporters, year over year, we have grown our regional impact to create brighter futures for those involved in the child welfare system. We have partnered with like-minded organizations, both small and large, to bring more people into the sphere of folks who care for children and families in foster care.
As a foster and adoptive parent, and as the president and founder of Tidewater Friends of Foster Care, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the way this community has stepped up and committed to showing our young people in foster care that they are valued and supported. We all have a role to play in making a difference in this space; we are the Village that Cares for these children and their families; we are the CARE in Foster Care.
Celebrating Our Special Honoree
Join us in celebrating, Lakysha Laing
Lakysha Laing is Director of Customer Care at Cox Communications. She is a Diversity and Inclusion Advocate, whose motto is “The Authentic Self is the Soul Made Visible”. She believes in making people feel valued and helping them find their career paths based on their passions and dreams. Lakysha is a breast cancer survivor and an award-winning author of the book “The Strength of Silk – Living a Life of Grace & Gratitude”, where she shares her story in foster care, working in technology, breast cancer survivorship and resilience through life’s difficulties.
About Our Partner of the Year
A gem of South Hampton Roads, The YMCA
When it comes to community service and impact, it’s hard to find an organization that does more than the YMCA. Over 5 years ago TFFC approached the YMCA of South Hampton Roads asking them to help us provide swim lessons for the youth in foster care that we serve. We also asked if they would consider extending TFFC a corporate discount on memberships so we—as a small non-profit—could afford to provide FREE memberships to our kids and their families.
The answer was a resounding YES! And since then, our partnership has grown to include Summer camps, Birthday parties, Health and wellness programming, Teen leadership programming, the Y is even a drop-off location for our Gifting program, and most importantly the Y is a place where our families can go for respite and rejuvenation.
Accepting the Partner of the Year Award was YMCA President and CEO, Anthony Walters, who so many years ago was the person to say “Yes” to this incredible partnership.
A Night of Amazing Speakers
Lane Shea is Managing Director at Harbor Group International, overseeing real estate capital transactions. Lane Shea is a mother of four; two homemade daughters and two sons adopted from foster care. Lane shared challenges and triumphs of adopting two teen-aged boys from separate group homes and the heart-touching moments of parenting throughout their family’s journey.
Rebecca Woolard is a Senior Commercial Property Manager with Colliers and a foster mom to two little boys who have been with them since March 2021. Rebecca shared her experience as a foster parent who receives services from TFFC and how those services helped her kindergartener excel in school and her children thrive.
Cordelia Cranshaw is a coach, author, storyteller, trainer, social worker, Miss District of Columbia 2019 – and a person with lived experience in the foster care system. Cordelia says “No matter what life challenges you face, no matter how negative the circumstances are, we can always turn negatives into positives.”
The Awardees of the Night
Artist of the Year
Anna – 10 years old, creator of “Baby Z” – our first-place winner in the Art from the Heart competition. Anna participates in TFFC’s Tutoring, Camp and Extracurricular Programs
Volunteers of the Year
Regina Harrington volunteers with TFFC providing administrative and outreach support each week.
Joe Stoner volunteers to pick up and deliver our birthday gifts each month to hundreds of children across Southeastern Virginia and beyond.
Tutor of the Year
Deleyah Holly has tutored with TFFC for over 5 years. She has developed, launched and managed our FOCUS Reading program (Fostering Our Children’s Unlimited Success), where she has trained and led a team of reading specialists to propel our kids forward. TFFC was proud to honor Deleyah for her incredible contributions to our tutoring program and the students we serve.
Outstanding Youth Achievement
TFFC is thrilled to honor our outstanding youth for their achievements and this year we recognized Kashi Smith-Jones for his incredible accomplishments. Kashi enrolled in the TFFC tutoring program in December of 2017, a 7th grader, at 13 years old, with failing grades. Like so many of our foster care students, life hit him hard and he was struggling in school, needing intensive support in English and math.
He worked with TFFC Tutor, Suzanne Schott, and over the course of time, Kashi gained confidence, improved his grades substantially, and began passing every class. In 2020 he was placed in a loving and nurturing home, which would become his forever home – with the Smith-Jones family. The following year, he continued working hard with his tutors and eventually made honor roll in 10th grade - the 2020-21 academic year! Along the way, Kashi participated in TFFC’s extracurricular programs, taking voice and piano lessons, he received a keyboard for his 16th birthday, he participated in summer camps, becoming a Counselor in Training at the YMCA's Camp Red Feather, he utilized his YMCA family membership, and he took dance lessons – he enjoyed a full and enriching life.
At the end of 2021 Kashi was adopted by the Smith-Jones family at age 17 years old. Kashi has continued to make progress in life and in school and this year we are so proud to report that he entered his senior year, enrolling in AP classes and has already been accepted to Radford University. All of us at TFFC have been honored to be a part of his journey, supporting him in reaching his goals in life, and watching him flourish and thrive.
Suzanne Schott – Kashi’s tutor – said…
“I have been tutoring for TFFC about 6 years and Kashi one of the first students I had. He was in middle school when I first started working with him. “
“The say the key to education is building relationships. That was something very easy to do with Kashi. “
“I was honored last year when he wanted me to listen to a presentation he had to give for his AP English class. In the presentation he discussed where he was in life and how he got there. I was taken by his own self-awareness and ability to express himself. It was an absolute stunning testament to his resiliency and perseverance. This was when I also realized that Kashi was no longer a boy, but now a very beautiful and successful young man. ”
A Few Final Words
A Few Final Words
In Tidewater alone, there are over 1000 children in foster care each year. We want each and every one of them to be connected to loving families and support systems that can allow them to thrive. This requires a “Community that Cares” to help TFFC and our social service partners to create awareness, to recruit more prospective foster families and family supporters, and to provide more services, like Academic Tutoring, YMCA memberships, Summer Camps, and much more for these kids.
Because of your generosity, since 2016 TFFC has invested more than $3.3M to improve outcomes through providing:
- 33,000 hours of Individualized Tutoring for 530 Students
- 460 Family YMCA memberships for 590 foster youth and over 2000 members
- 695 Extracurricular Activities for 340 Foster Children
- 880 Weeks of Summer Camp for 220 Campers
- Granted 6500 Birthday and Holiday Wish Lists!
- We’ve engaged over 2000 foster parents, advocates and supporters
YOU make all this incredible work possible and we are so thankful for your belief in our mission and your partnership in making a collective impact across our region.