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Big Hugs and Hearts

There is nothing more rewarding at The Genesis Project than to see a boy meet his goals and return successfully into the community. That’s the aim for every boy we serve.

I want to share with you a story about a boy who touched my heart personally and reached a milestone that at one time, seemed nearly impossible. He is an example of encouragement to all of us who worked with him. We’ll call him Casey.

When Casey came to us, he was brand new to the child welfare system. He had been abused by his mother’s boyfriend and taken into state custody. He was mad at the world. He got into a fight with another boy on his first day, didn’t trust anyone and had low self-esteem. You should see the expression on his face in the first photo we took upon admission. The boy’s frown is obvious, and the handsome little guy looks so sad. You can especially tell by looking into his eyes. He was shy, hurting and scared.

Like most boys who arrive here, Casey had little hope. He was distant and clearly did not want to stay. I remember asking him if he wanted a hug, and he defiantly told me, “I am not a hugger.” I gave him his space, and as always, our staff went to work helping him acclimate.

Despite our efforts, he refused to participate in activities, calling them stupid. He didn’t allow himself to relax. Our staff would not give up. Despite his aggressive behavior, they worked tirelessly to motivate and encourage Casey but still, little progress.

In our trauma-informed environment, we look for ways to create pathways to hope. One way we do that is to find out each boy’s interests and then build on them. At The Genesis Project, we provide multiple activities and outings for the boys to explore new opportunities and dream about possibilities, which give hope.  Casey found basketball.

We are fortunate to have staff who coach our boys at the YMCA. Casey had never played basketball but when he got the ball in his hand, it was hard to find him without one again. Our coaches worked with him every evening, doing drills and shooting countless baskets. The sport became his release. Eventually, Casey lightened up and after four months, we saw his first smile. At first, he’d get angry if he caught himself smiling. One team member said Casey would not allow himself to be happy.

Casey kept shooting and staff kept encouraging, and eventually Casey saw that other people did really care about him. Therapy became easier.  He opened up, and his defiant behavior began occurring less often.

In the meantime, Casey’s mom worked hard in her personal life to regain custody. As Casey kept shooting and his mother kept working, they eventually reached a point where he could better manage his behavior and it became safe for the two to reunite.

I will never forget the day of Casey’s discharge. His mom came to pick him up and as he was driving away, I waved at him. The car slowed and Casey jumped out. I walked closer and it didn’t take long for him to give me a big hug. That was priceless. The kid who wouldn’t hug anyone initiated a hug.

Casey is at home with his mom now. He’s enjoying his summer and enjoying the freedom good behavior allows. We are so proud and miss him a lot.

It’s so great when all the hard work connects. A few weeks ago, another one of our boys who had been struggling managed to turn around his behaviors. He earned back the privilege to participate in off-campus outings. One of the first he attended was a trip to feed homeless people. He noticed a man who did not have any shoes and gave him his own. That’s progress. Huge progress and warms my heart every time I think about it.

We couldn’t do it without a committed, passionate, caring staff. They go out of their way to care and love on our little guys.

Sometimes, success at The Genesis Project is determined in millimeters. There are so many instances of two steps up and three steps back, etc. But our staff does not give up.

We couldn’t do it without you, either. These days, when prices are high for everything, the stress on our family’s budget at Genesis is great. Your financial contributions help us provide resources for the little extras that make a big difference in our boys’ lives.

If you would like to support our efforts and help create big hugs and hearts, please take time to donate to our efforts. Your donations do make a big difference and we are so thankful for your generosity.



Scott Coppenbarger, Executive Director