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Posted by Jamie Walters, Sophia's Children.
Jamie is an inspiration partner & guide for her fellow transformation leaders, change catalysts, and creative nonconformists who explore and navigate the "fierce edges of Life" and are "Being (and Seeding) the Change" in these times.
Lori Cohee remembers the event that changed her life and put her on the path to founding Foster a Dream, a San Francisco Bay Area nonprofit that seeks to raise awareness and improve the lives of foster children.
Cohee was a twelve-year-old from an affluent family in California’s Napa Valley. To outsiders, she wanted for nothing, but a darker story emerged when she was called out of gym class and taken to a county social services office where she was questioned about alleged abuse at home.
After the frightening interrogation, Cohee was taken-with only the clothes on her back-to an emergency foster home. It was the first of six foster homes that she would live in over the next two years. “Five of these foster homes should not have received licenses,” she says. “In one, I was never spoken to; in another, I couldn’t get a glass of water without asking. I marked my thirteenth birthday without even a card or happy birthday wish. I cried myself to sleep for weeks.”
During this time, she attempted to present a facade of normalcy at school, but when she was served a subpoena to testify in court against her parents-without any support system-Cohee attempted suicide.
In her sixth foster home, Lori found the support that helped her begin the long process of rebuilding her self-esteem, sense of identity, and dreams. Not feeling confident enough to go to college, Lori built a successful sales career with a high income.
After sharing her story with a local group in 2002, Cohee gave up her lucrative sales career, and launched Foster a Dream.
“People ask me why I would give up a great salary,” she says. “Why not? Helping to save a life is worth far more than $100,000.”
Cohee’s start-up phase pushed her to the outer limits of both faith and experience. But then she remembered the children for whom Foster a Dream exists: Kids who’ve been in and out of twenty schools and as many foster homes, 80 percent of whom are in the system through no fault of their own; many won’t graduate from high school; 40 percent will end up homeless, drug addicted, or possibly involved in prostitution. Some will escalate to violent crimes.
Cohee says that her story teaches others to persevere through and find purpose in even the harshest experiences, and to reconnect with their soul’s calling no matter how far from the path they seem to have wandered. “I want to teach people that no matter what their experience, and no matter who they are, there are opportunities to share that, and to nurture the development, growth, talents, and dreams of those around them-that’s what -foster’ means,” she says.
Cohee’s organization has assisted more than 1,000 foster kids through its mentor program, Pillow Pals, which donates essentials like pillows, blankets, and clothing; and by sponsoring a holiday toy drive and “Adopt a Dream” events to celebrate important milestones in the kids’ lives. Learn more at www.fosteradream.org.
Jamie S. Walters is the founder of Ivy Sea, Inc. producer of Ivy Sea Online, and author of Big Vision, Small Business (Berrett-Koehler, 2002). Contact Jamie at (415) 778-3910, jwalters-ivysea.com, or www.ivysea.com.