Earlier this month would have been the third annual Homebrew Showcase for All Our Kids. The last two years of this event have been a wonderful partnership between Paddy’s Irish Pub and AOK. Although the funds raised as a result of this event have meant so much to us, the relationships we’ve made with the Showcase organizers – Chris Maza and Blake Bryan – have meant even more. In this month’s guest post, Chris talks about why he initially became involved in the Homebrew Showcase and the personal connection his family has to foster care.
This isn’t just a beer event to me. It is so much more.
My wife and I were once foster parents through the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families. This is Michael. These images are literally of some of our final moments together. For privacy reasons, I can’t show you his face. I wish I could. His smile, God, could just melt the coldest heart. Michael was our foster son from the day he was 11 days old. We wanted our home to be his forever home. It wasn’t meant to be.
Our time with Michael was short. We expected a lifetime. We had three months. During the training to become a foster parent, you are warned that there is a chance the child you take in could be taken back and it could happen for myriad reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of care you provide that child. That is what happened to us. After three months of late nights and early mornings, feedings, changings, laughs, cries, and new experiences every day for us and for him, he was gone from our home, but never from our hearts. It’s time that I treasure. I think about him every day. I think about how he helped me become a better version of myself and how he helped me become the father I am to our little girl. I wonder if he’s happy and if he’s healthy. I wish my daughter could know him. I think about how I wish I could watch him grow.
I also think about all the challenges we experienced. The frustrations with phone calls to DCF with questions that weren’t returned, the nerve-racking mandatory parental visits, having strangers come into our home, our personal lives, our finances, everything. I think about the many more challenges we didn’t face. In a way, I’m thankful that Michael was so young, that he didn’t experience the trauma of having to leave his home and family, as broken as it might be. To hear a 5-year-old tell you, “When mommy was arrested, I was lost,” how do you cope with that? How do you help them cope with that? Where could you turn? I also think about how we, a white lower middle class couple, would raise a proud black man? How do we help him through the experience of being a minority in an era when racism and bigotry are so prevalent? Who could help us and support us through that?
This is just a sliver of what All Our Kids is all about – bringing support to foster families as the gulf between what families need and what they get from DCF widens. Children spend years seeking a sense of belonging. Adoptive families spend years praying for permanence. In the meantime, All Our Kids is there. Sometimes it’s just helping families network with other families because you can feel so alone. Sometimes it’s helping them find educational resources and mentoring families. Sometimes it’s helping them find clothing or baby gear.
They are the bridge over that gulf in our communities.
For me, it is an honor to put on this event. I know Blake at Paddy’s feels the same. When I texted Blake one night with the idea, he didn’t hesitate. “I love it. Let’s do it.” Every cent raised goes directly to helping the most vulnerable in our communities. That’s special.
Putting this together is a labor of love. No, it’s more than that. It’s an honest to God, made on earth miracle, inspired by Michael. It’s a legacy born from the love my wife and I will always have for him. I like to think he’d be proud to know that he is the reason we now help so many others.
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