Written by Kristy Graves, a member of our Young People’s Advisory Council and former young person in care.
Last week, I had the extreme honour of speaking in front of hundreds of people at the 15th annual Children’s Aid Foundation Recognition Night. I’m not going to lie you — I was terrified. All of the practice in the world could not stop me from getting intense butterflies. And I mean come on, who would feel as though they could compete with Tracy Moore? The woman is amazing!
Nevertheless, I walked confidently onto the stage and began to speak. (Thank goodness the audience couldn’t see my shaking legs behind the podium!) As I spoke, I looked out into a sea of open faces, all focused on me, and I looked to the side where my amazing social worker sat. I was surprised to realize I no longer just felt fear — I felt love. An intense outpouring of love and support from every person listening to me. It’s not an easy thing to bare your heart and life story to a room of strangers, but by the end of my night it felt like a room of friends.
Every step of the way I had members of the Foundation offering me support whether it be getting me water or offering bear hugs at the end (thanks Joe, I think my spine cracked). On a night that could have easily made me feel like an animal on display, I instead felt like a beloved family member due to all of the love and support.
The part that truly made all of the preparations and nerves worth it though was the students and donors who spoke to me afterwards. One student in particular told me that it was her first Recognition Night, and that although she sometimes doubted herself, listening to and meeting me has made her believe she can make it to graduation, too. I can’t express how much this touched my heart. I truly believe that with added supports like those provided by the Children’s Aid Foundation that every single one of us “foster kids” can make it to graduation and beyond.
Looking back on this night, I am proud to be a graduate. I am sad that this was my last Recognition Night. I always do like to go out with a bang though…