This is a quote from Noah Ehlert, and the inspiration for his Discover Your Path tour, a cross country bike trip from California to Florida to raise awareness of the issues faced by youth in foster care, and of organizations that are stepping up to make a difference in their lives.
After six days of a physically demanding bike ride from San Diego to Phoenix, Noah visited Arizona Helping Hands on Friday, Feb. 7. While in our facility, he met with a new foster parent struggling to see her path forward. She heard from Noah a message of hope.
He told her that he made it through challenging times as a youth, and was given a chance by caring adults. He told Larissa that what she is doing is vitally important, and that while she may never learn the end result of her service to children in need, it is making a difference in a child’s life.
There can be no greater service than to be that one caring adult for a child in need. Noah lifted Larissa up and encouraged her to carry on.
That same morning a preschool teacher came to Arizona Helping Hands to receive a crib for the baby she is now parenting 24/7. Noah held that 10-day-old little girl and praised this wonderful lady for going so far above and beyond.
She had learned of a youngster in her class whose mom was incapable of safely caring for him. She raised her hand to help, and is now raising both him and his baby sister. Another adult who made the decision to bring hope to children who have been victims of abuse and neglect.
Noah spent time as a youth in a shelter in Florida. At 11 years of age, he was gifted a bike. This bike turned into a positive way for him to escape and clear his mind. That bike gave him a new way to handle the difficult emotions he was facing and to focus on something other than his negative surroundings.
Noah was moved to tears multiple times while he toured our facility. He saw all of the supplies and supports we offer to help children.
He walked the rows of our warehouse filled with learning toys, books, clothing, diapers, beds, cribs and also the birthday packages that celebrate a child’s special day. All these items fill voids in the lives of boys and girls.
For Noah, he found answers on a bike. For children we meet, sometimes it’s knowing that they have a safe place to sleep, a new backpack for school or a footlocker to store their most prized personal possessions.
Maybe it’s a duffel bag to replace the black trash bag in which children have been moving their personal belongings from home to home. And, yes, we can often help with bicycles, scooters, skateboards or footballs, basketballs and soccer balls. Everyone has a different escape, and for the 14,000 children in foster care throughout Arizona, many of those needs are being filled by Arizona Helping Hands.
Noah is traveling across the country visiting those like us who are helping kids who are hurting. His difficult journey is buoyed by the knowledge that he will bring greater awareness of the work being done for kids like him by dedicated charities like Arizona Helping Hands.
Noah told us that the bike ride is symbolic of the need to do whatever is necessary to help boys and girls in foster care. “When you hit this headwind, or you hit that hill that you have to get up, you have to keep going, you have to just do it.”
At Arizona Helping Hands we are inspired by Noah and his journey. We are called to service by visiting with Larissa, by holding that little baby and by realizing how incredibly important it is to care for our children.
Despite the emotions, the pressures, the constant need for more resources and more donations to help keep our doors open and help more kids in need, we still have to keep going.
Thank you, Noah, for your inspirational story. We hope that your ride will succeed in raising awareness of children in foster care and the myriad of ways that our community can step up to help. We will follow your trip across the country at discoveryourpath.com and cheer you on this important journey.
We pledge to be here for the thousands of boys and girls in foster care throughout Arizona who need our helping hands, who need a little bit of support and hope. We will help raise them up to get through that next headwind and over that next hill. We, as a community, just have to do it!
Arizona Helping Hands is a Qualifying Foster Care Charitable Organization (QFCO#10003) and, as such, donations from Arizona taxpayers qualify for a dollar-for-dollar tax credit on your state tax return. Learn more and donate today at azhelpinghands.org.
Editor’s note: Mr. Shufelt is president & CEO of Arizona Helping Hands, the largest provider of basic needs to Arizona’s children in foster care.