God Gave Me My Life For a Reason
I was first placed in foster care while in kindergarten. Although very young, this was one of my earliest memories. My parents were going through rough times. My father was an alcoholic and had trouble maintaining a job; he was always getting arrested. My mom tried too, but she was a drug addict. I went in and out of foster homes from the ages of five to eight. During those years, I was mad that I had to move around so many times and live with so many strangers. In my mind, I always knew that somehow I would go back home to my parents. The last time I was taken away from my parents, my dad had asked me if I thought calling the social worker was the best thing to do? I said “yes.” The police came and took us away to the police station where a social worker picked us up and separated me from my siblings. Being the oldest, I was usually placed alone so that my brothers and sister could be placed together in the same home.
I felt lonely during those years, but I knew that sooner or later, I would reunite with my family. When I found out my dad had died and my mother had fled home to Mexico abandoning us, my heart sank. Even in my young nine-year-old mind, I was beginning to grasp the big picture. We would be stuck in foster care indefinitely. I was a tough kid by this point. I sucked it up and maintained as best I could in every home I was placed; 13 foster homes in all. My last foster dad adopted me when I was 13. He gave me and my brother Randy, a good home. I maintained a good relationship with my adopted dad. He encouraged me to think ahead about my future and what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to join the army. He agreed it was a good idea to serve my country and set up a foundation of success for my life.
The first time I attended a Royal Family KIDS (RFK) camp was in 1993 through St. Andrews church in Newport Beach, California. I was nine years old at this time. I had lived in a group home in Anaheim Hills from 1992-1996. My first impression of camp was that it was full of very nice people who honestly cared a lot about us. Every day my camp counselor and my roommate got up early and went hiking with the other campers. It was such a relief to get away from my group home with all the yelling and screaming going on there every day. Our first camp was situated near Six Flags Magic Mountain in a huge campground. It had hiking trails in the Hills, big flat grassy fields, a basketball court, and my favorite—the big pool. It was hard to say goodbye at the end of the week and know that we were going back to our foster homes. Every year I wished I could go back to camp and live there forever. I used to go to bed thinking about it as my happy place. I even thought that the camp counselors lived there all year long!
I had no role models at this time in my life as all the staff members in the group home where women. I grew attached to Ken and Kerry who at the time, were the camp “aunt and uncle.” I thought Ken was an awesome guy, and I liked hanging out with him at camp. He eventually became my camp counselor the third year that I attended camp.
Ken began to visit me every week and took me to church on Sundays at St. Andrews. We maintained our relationship even through the many moves in my life. I still go over to their house and visit him, his wife Kerry, and their three sons. Ken has been a big brother to me for most of my life, and we will probably be friends for a very long time. I still look to him for guidance.
Royal Family KIDS camp is a place full of good people who want to make a difference in young kids’ lives. Before camp, I had never gone to church and did not know anything about God. At camp, I was given my first Bible and taught Bible stories. I know this camp made a huge impact on my life.
This summer will be my fifth year as a volunteer camp counselor. I have never met so many good people in my life. I thought that since camp had made such a huge impact in my life, I should help keep that tradition going. I had never known Jesus until camp, and now I am helping kids learn about Him for the first time as well. It is a good feeling knowing that ‘unconditional’ love has been introduced to them. I love hanging out with the kids, volunteer counselors and staff members. Everyone is so friendly and they are there to make sure the children have an awesome experience! Sometimes, I still wish I could live there all year long!
Someone once asked me if I could go back in time and be back again with my real parents, would I do it? I thought about it seriously, and replied that I would not give up my current life to start all over at eight years old. I have met so many good people, had so many fun experiences with my friends, coworkers, and family that I cannot dream of giving away all of these memories. God gave me my life for a reason.
The only week I get off every year for vacation, I spend entirely in having the privilege of being a volunteer camp counselor. I get to help spread the love of Jesus to kids who really need Him in their lives. I try to tell them to hold their heads high, because someday they too will have the opportunity to become a person who makes a difference in the lives of others. There is no better feeling in the world than to see a young, abused kid become happy again. To give him or her hope for a better future is indescribable!
I hope to continue being a volunteer camp counselor for as long as I can. I love going to camp and being a kid again!
Alex, RFK Alumni