Looking Back on 30 Years: Donny's Story
April 3 2020
StandUp for Kids - Orange County
Amidst difficult and uncertain times, it’s important to reflect and be grateful for all that we have. Throughout the country, many homeless youths are faced with an uncertain reality, unsure of their next meal and sleeping place. Their story is not unlike that of Donny who came to StandUp for Kids in search of guidance and mentorship.
Life growing up seemed like an endless fight for Donny. There were never moments of peace for Donny. Instead it was perpetual battles with both his family and his own inner struggles.
“Growing up was really rough. You know, my mom was drug addict and alcoholic. When I was 14 my mom gave me a restraining order because I put hands on her boyfriend because he had hit her in front of me,” said Donny.
Exhausted with his estranged relationship with his family, Donny would choose to run away from it all in search of something better.
“When I was 15, I couldn't take him. I just took off and I never looked back.”
From there things wouldn’t get easier for Donny though. Constant trips in and out of juvenile hall would become routine for him. It was a pattern of self-inflicted mistakes that continually haunted Donny.
But then there was a moment of realization. It was a realization that something had to change and the same course of actions could not be repeated.
“I found myself in an abandoned hospital with a PICC line strapped to my arm and people were selling guns out of that hospital. People were getting stabbed, beat up and robbed in that place. It was really gnarly. I got five warrants at that time. I left and that's when I tried it. I'm like ‘I need to figure something else because I am going to end up in prison for the rest of my life or I’m going to end up dead.’ ”
Faced with few options, things appeared bleak. However, a friend would refer Donny to StandUp for Kids and so he decided to explore yet another avenue that could provide him with stability and the help he yearned for.
Coming to StandUp for Kids wasn’t the end of Donny’s struggles, however. Bad habits would creep in and disrupt progress made with mentors.
“I was a knucklehead. They would go over things and try to teach me different stuff and I just either wasn't ready for it or I just wanted to do my own program.”
It didn’t come easy for Donny. It was an everyday struggle for him of getting better and becoming self-sufficient.
“The struggle to stay clean was difficult. Getting clean was easy. It was staying clean that was the tough part.”
However, despite Donny’s struggles, mentors at StandUp for Kids stood with him every step of the way providing him with support and care.
“They helped me out a lot, especially when I really needed it. You know, they never gave up on me when a lot of people have.”
Specifically, for Donny it was the guidance provided by mentors that was most significant. It was something that he had never experienced prior to coming to StandUp for Kids.
“Mentorship was a big deal. At that time, I didn't really have mentors. I didn't know how to find mentors.”
For Donny there isn't one particular memory that stands out during his time at StandUp for Kids as instead it was the friendships formed and advice given to him by mentors that he most cherishes.
“I was always asking them for their advice to get me out of a spot or tell me what not to do.”
Today Donny is doing well helping renovate houses as part of a business that he owns. He is preparing for a big move to Arizona where he hopes to achieve much more.
But he never forgets his mentors at StandUp for Kids who were always there for him.
“If they would have given up on me, I would be in prison for the rest of my life.”
It’s this attitude that makes Donny grateful for the work that StandUp for Kids accomplishes daily with children across the country. It’s a belief etched into the mind of every mentor at StandUp for Kids that each youth is capable of greatness with mentorship and guidance.
It’s something that Donny recognizes because he was once that kid wandering aimlessly through life until he found a family that would support him even through the mistakes.
“A lot of people have convinced themselves that they don't deserve a better life because of whatever hardship that they're dealing with. If the kid isn't ready, the kid isn't ready. But the kids that are, you've got to put your all into them and don't give up on them because they will make it.”