The following are success stories of children who have attended Girls Place. These stories are all true, only the names have been changed to keep all children’s identities hidden. While we hope that we are able to touch the lives of every child that enters our doors, these stories are truly exceptional examples of how Girls Place has benefited the lives of children in our community…
Mentally disabled and addicted to drugs, Jasmine Jones’* parents could not take care of her. Soon after she was born, Jasmine’s father abandoned her family and her mother allowed an abusive boy friend to move in to the family home. Her most vivid memories of her mother are the countless times when police came to her house to intervene. When she was four, Jasmine and her sisters were removed from her mother’s care and placed with her aunt and uncle.
Things started looking up for Jasmine when she turned five. That was when she became a member of Girls Place and began attending the after school program. Enthusiastic and easy going, Jasmine quickly made friends and began to flourish. Unfortunately, that progress was short lived as she began act out—running away from staff, throwing objects at her friends, spitting, and using language that is unacceptable at Girls Place. Sometimes, Jasmine’s behavior became so out of control, her aunt and uncle had to pick her up. But, Girls Place staff refused to give up on her. After several weeks, staff discovered that the best way to help Jasmine succeed was to give her the attention she had so desperately craved all of her young life. With a quick hug and short conversation about her day as soon as she arrived, Jasmine’s behavior began to improve.
As she turned seven, Jasmine’s needs became greater than hugs and attention could provide. Thanks to the personalized attention that Girls Place staff gives each and every member, Jasmine’s behaviors and triggers were documented so that her doctor could give her the specialized care she needed. Concerned about her well being, staff also suggested that her aunt take her for counseling at a local mental health care facility. With the help of Girls Place, Jasmine’s teachers and doctors decided to enroll her in a special school. There she received the counseling and anger management skills she needed to succeed.
To provide stability and additional support, Jasmine continued to attend the after school program at Girls Place. With special arrangements for transportation, she had access to unconditional acceptance and support at Girls Place. Soon, with the help of her new school, her family and the staff of Girls Place, Jasmine began to excel. She was named Citizen of the Month at school, graduated from the program and is now back on track.
Jasmine also continues to go to Girls Place every day after school. She still gets her hugs as soon as she arrives, but even when she forgets, Jasmine is just fine.
After months of unexplained fatigue and illness, Katie* was diagnosed with child onset diabetes. She was seven years old. Although her mom was concerned about her attending a program without nursing support, Katie began attending Girls Place. Without properly regulated insulin, Katie could die. Staff members familiarized themselves with Katie’s special needs and were impressed that she remembered to check her insulin levels, and monitor her insulin pump to make up the difference.
Katie flourished at Girls Place. She developed lasting friendships and discovered that the physical activity was both fun and good for her. She enjoyed herself so much she decided to participate in Summer Day Camp at Girls Place.
Summer Day Camp was lots of fun for Katie, then one day Katie’s easy going attitude changed. When staff reminded her to check her insulin levels, Katie became upset and angry. Her insulin pump was empty and she was scared. Girls Place contacted her mom and was relieved to learn that a refill of insulin was on its way and would arrive that night. The following day, Katie began vomiting. Denying that her insulin was an issue, Katie tried to rejoin her group to play. Her condition worsened and she became lethargic. Staff helped her test her insulin level but because it was so high, her monitor could not display her level. An emergency phone call to her mom revealed what Girls Place staff had feared: Katie had no insulin, and mom wasn’t concerned.
Luckily, Girls Place staff takes their role of caregivers seriously. Volunteers from the UF College of Nursing were visiting Girls Place that day and agreed that Katie’s condition was too serious to ignore. Girls Place called 911.
When her mom finally arrived, paramedics were treating Katie for dehydration and preparing to transport her to the emergency room to receive insulin. Her mom protested, but Girls Place staff intervened and Katie received the care she needed.
Unfortunately, running out of insulin was a common problem for Katie. Without the support and safety of Girls Place, her condition would likely have gone ignored by her mother. With referrals to support services and close monitoring, Katie’s mom is better able to provide her the care she needs.
Katie returned to Girls Place for Summer Day Camp later in the summer and used her experience to teach her friends about the dangers of Diabetes. With the help of Girls Place staff and UF College of Nursing volunteers, a scary situation was transformed into an opportunity to teach girls about healthful living.
Katie currently attends the After School Program at Girls Place. But, she’ll be back this summer, too.
Kristina Smith* is a seven year old member of Girls Place who has been a participant in all of our programs (after school, summer day camp and athletics) for two years. She is one of those kids who begs her mother to bring her to a sports practice even when she is sick. She can’t stand to miss a day of activities at Girls Place. Her mom describes Girls Place as the saving grace her daughter needed in the darkest period of her young life.
When Kristina was just 5 ½ years old, she witnessed her father collapse at home of a heart attack. She held vigil at the hospital for several hours hoping for a full and speedy recovery for her father. Unfortunately, he died on the operating table. This unexpected loss took a big toll on Kristina and her family. In just a matter of hours, her mom was transformed to a single mother of a teenager and a kindergartener. Kristina desperately needed something of her own to help her cope with the loss of her father. Girls Place provided the stability and nurturing Kristina needed to help her thrive in the months and years after her father’s death.
Starting with Soccer, Kristina threw her energy into being a top-notch teammate and player. Her coaches praised her positive attitude and consistent efforts during practices and games. Coaches consistently commented that they wished their teams were full of “Kristinas” with positive attitudes and willingness to try new things. Soccer helped to boost her self esteem tremendously. She realized that she might not be the best player on the field, but she was having fun and making new friends. Before we knew it, Kristina began to compete in every sport Girls Place has to offer: track, basketball and volleyball. Over the summer, she participated in every single one-week sports camp Girls Place offered, and was upset that more weren’t available!
Kristina’s participation in Girls Place Athletics was made possible by financial assistance from United Way of North Central Florida. As a single mother, Kristina’s mom faces extreme financial hardships as she works toward her degree so that she can secure her family’s future. Without the support of the United Way, Kristina would have become a latch key kid in her hour of greatest need. The nurturing and support of Girls Place coaches and staff have undoubtedly helped Kristina cope with the loss of her father.
When Kristina earned the Girls Place “Athlete of the Year” award, her mother and sister were in the audience cheering her on. Kristina was sure that her father was there, too.