Tough Childhood to a Confident Military Man
In 2019, one of our boys loaded a bus for Army boot camp. A proud moment for us. And a moment Dakota had prepared for since 2018. Dakota's decision to join the Army was something he wanted to do.
We have watched Dakota grow from our skinny, little, awkward 14-year-old boy into a tall, handsome, maturing military man over the last five years.
Days before leaving, he came by my office to tell his story. "Home." That's Dakota's immediate response when asked the one word he would use to describe the Collins Children's Home.
Dakota arrived at his friend's house and his friend's mom asked how he was doing and offered him a snack. That simple gesture touched Dakota deeply and he remembers feeling special and seen for the first time.
Dakota remembers his early childhood as "really tough" and one he doesn't want any other child to go through. His mom and dad were not affectionate parents, In fact, they barely even acknowledged the existence of their three young children. Dakota doesn't recall a time his parents cared for him, he just remembers taking care of himself and his brother, who was five years younger than him. His sister mostly took care of herself.
A Simple Gesture Touched Him Deeply
He moved a lot and never really had friends. Although when he was in the 6th grade, he finally made a friend. He went to visit his friend at home one night. That's one of the first times he caught a glimpse of what a 'family' could look like. Dakota arrived at his friend's house and his friend's mom asked how he was doing and offered him a snack. That simple gesture touched Dakota deeply and he remembers feeling special and seen for the first time.
At 13, he and his siblings were removed from their home and sent to live with his elderly grandmother. His grandmother was already caring for other family members. She heard about the Collins Home, so she scheduled a time to meet us and tour the campus.
He Found His Place to Flourish
Despite having a rough childhood, Dakota was scared to come to live at the Collins Home. He pictured being confined and doing the same thing day after day. But when he and his grandmother arrived, he couldn't believe it. The house felt and looked like a real home. He met our houseparents and his cottage siblings who immediately made him feel like he was a part of the family.
Over the next five years, Dakota developed loving and caring relationships with his houseparents, cottage siblings, and tutors. He played sports, dabbled in playing the guitar, learned to cook, got his driver's license, graduated high school, and joined the Army.
All the Love and Attention He Longed For
Dakota finally received all the love and attention that he longed for. He truly believes his life would have turned out differently if he hadn't come to live at the Collins Children's Home. He wishes all kids in his situation could live here.
We can't wait to hear from him after boot camp and throughout his adulthood. he is forever a part of our family.
You Can Make a Difference in a Child's Life
As you can see through Dakota's story, sometimes all it takes is a small gesture to help a child feel important. There are many children here that have difficult childhood stories that are flourishing in their new home environment.