Sports columnist George Diaz recalls how a 22-month-old boy, who loved chocolate milk and Mickey Mouse, found a safe haven in the Diaz home. When the little boy left eight months later, he took with him some new toys, his favorite flip flops and a chance at having a healthy life with his biological family.
That is the reward for foster parents who open their hearts and their homes to what Diaz calls the “innocent bystanders of some dysfunctional mess.” This spring, well-known Central Florida faces and names will share personal stories of their involvement with foster children in a series of ads developed by Community-Based Care of Central Florida, the non-profit agency that oversees child welfare in Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties. In the “Open Campaign,” each ad will feature a well-known leader asking friends and colleagues to open their hearts, minds and doors to offer opportunities to more than 4,000 children in the child-welfare system.
In addition to Diaz and his wife, Theresa Bradley-Diaz of The Nature Conservancy, other big names joining the campaign include:
- Former U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez, regional chairman for JPMorgan Chase, who shares his story of being adopted as a teen.
- Penny Jones, executive director of community relations for Florida Hospital, who has opened her home to countless foster children.
- CNLBank President Sandy Hostetter, whose Central Florida associates have embraced the organization through mentoring and on-site events.
“We believe the personal stories of these extraordinary people will inspire others to become involved in the lives of these deserving children,” said Glen Casel, president and CEO of Community Based Care of Central Florida.
As Diaz noted, “Becoming foster parents has completely changed our lives for the better; and if our story can inspire just one other family to do the same, it’s all worth it.”
Early outreach initiatives are already making an impact: attendance at foster parent workshops jumped from approximately 40 participants a month last summer to more than 100 each month today.