Former Building Bridges youth shares her story
Published on February 14, 2014
We love to hear success stories of past Building Bridges youth. The programming & services that we offer are life changing and we could not do it without the help of our generous supporters. Thank you Julie for writing such a heartfelt and compelling testimony.
"I was 13 years old when I was placed with Building Bridges. It was the last resort before getting sent to the detention center in Columbus Ohio. I wasn’t a hard-core criminal or anything along those lines. I was just a teenager in need of some guidance and attention.
I grew up in a single parent home. My mom was hardly ever around. I was the last of 3 children and by this time she was just tired of being a parent. She lived her life with very little regard as to how it might affect me. She had a drinking problem and often became verbally and physically abusive when she had too much. I started to run around with the wrong crowd and found myself getting into trouble in the neighborhood, committing misdemeanor crimes such as property damage, petty theft, being out past curfew and skipping school. The police became involved in my life starting at the age of 9. I was placed on probation at the age of 12. After spending time within the juvenile court system it became obvious that I was not receiving the kind of supervision someone in my situation needed.
The decision was made to transfer me to the Building Bridges (BB) program. Enter Ron Reiglesperger as my probation officer. He became heavily involved in my life from day one. He would randomly show up at my home to see how things were with my mom and I. He often showed up at school to check if I was where I was supposed to be and to talk with my counselor. I had to report to BB everyday after school and sometimes went on work detail. Work detailed involved such things as visiting the Stillwater Mental Health Center and helping take care of the residence that lived there. Sometimes it would involve going to the local dog pound and helping the staff clean out the kennels. Every work detail was different but it always involved helping out in the community. I believe it was designed to take the focus off of ourselves and for a few short hours make us focus on someone or something else. BB also got me involved in other activities such as softball, basketball, picnics, retreats, and other fun activities throughout my years of being involved in the program. To many to mention and many I’m sure I have forgotten. They kept me busy, which in turn kept me off the streets and out of trouble. I always looked forward to seeing the staff at BB and getting plenty of hugs. They made me feel important and treated me as if I was part of a family. I felt a lot of love from everyone. They really cared about my well being. Ron was like a father figure to me. He came into my life and showed me love and discipline that I never had before. I was so use to being verbally accosted when I screwed up or physically slapped around if I upset my mom. Ron was gentle yet firm in his discipline. He set ground rules and boundaries for me to abide by. When I broke them there were consequences for my actions. But there were also good consequences for my good actions. I was praised for my good work, and encouraged to become a better person along the way. I once was flown by a private jet to New York City to watch a New York Mets game and meet some of the ball players, then flew back home that same evening and was in bed by 10pm. That was an awesome experience I will never forget.
By the time I was 15 years old, Ron had been involved in my life long enough and had seen enough of the dysfunctional and abusive interaction between my mother and I that the decision was made to remove me from my home and place me in a Foster home. I was the first girl placed in a foster home through the Building Bridges program. I was very fortunate to be placed with a family who loved me unconditionally. They accepted me as I was, with all of my baggage and emotional issues. They never judged me. They only loved me. It was hard for them. They had a 15-year-old teenager who was used to living her life on her terms. I was used to coming and going as I pleased. I never had to fill out an itinerary, set aside time to do homework or be home by a certain time. All of these things were new for me. And yes, they were all met with great resistance. I was still struggling with wanting a relationship with my mother. As dysfunctional as our relationship was she was still my mother and I loved her and missed her. As much as my foster parents tried to love me I wasn’t very accepting of their love. I didn’t trust people to actually mean what they said. But ken and Beth proved time and time again that their love for me was unconditional and real. I didn’t have to do anything to earn it. They just gave it freely. After spending 2 ½ years under their wings, after I tried running away a couple of times, they reached their limit and knew it was time for me to leave the nest and spread my wings and fly.
From 9 years old until my late teens, those were the hardest years of my life. I struggled with loneliness, abandonment, and feeling no self worth. But BB gave me a reason to live another day. They just kept loving me and picking me back up whenever I fell down. They believed in me more than I could of ever believed in myself. They saw my potential, and they could see the end product. They also had faith that they had the formula to make it come to fruition. Their formula is to build bridges that build strong relationships. Showing young troubled teens they count, that they really do matter. Helping us believe in ourselves, speaking life into our deepest wounds. Helping us heal from the inside out. They believe that there is good in everyone who comes thru their doors. And their goal is to get that young person to see their worth, grab onto it with everything they have and use it as the fuel to propel them forward into adulthood. They helped me understand my anger, frustration and my pain. They helped me channel all of that negative energy into positive things instead of using it to self-destruct.
It wasn’t easy being BB kid. I fought their love, their guidance, and their discipline. Just as every other rebellious teenager would do to his or her own parents. But they never gave up on me. They don’t understand that terminology. To many of them it’s not a job… it’s who they are. It’s apart of there makeup. It runs through their veins. They see a kid in need and they can’t help but want to rescue them. This was who Ron WAS; this was NOT something he did to make a paycheck. BB saved my life. My foster parents helped in that process. At the time when I was in the middle of my storm walking through the BB program, I didn’t or couldn’t see it for what it was. It wasn’t until years later that I finally understood what they had done for me. I understood the energy, the sacrifices, and the tears that were involved in nurturing me through a very difficult time in my life and then letting me go, to fly solo through this thing called adulthood. It was difficult finding my way after I was out from underneath their protection. I fell many times. But I realized that because of what BB had taught me through the years and their unwavering display of love for me that I was able to stand up on my own. It has been 30 years since I was BB kid. To this day, I’m who I am because of them. I wouldn’t be where I am today had it not been for them intervening in my life all those years ago. I wouldn’t have graduated from high school if it weren’t for Ron riding my butt until I graduated. Not graduating was not an option. I would have never obtained my driver license when I was 16 if my foster parents hadn’t had enough faith in me to allow me to drive their car and learn the ropes. Even when I almost ripped the door off of the Escort, they still believed. Because of these victories I was able to join the military after graduation and grow up a little bit more. I was able to land a job at DP&L and make a descent living. This year marks my 22nd year and counting doing the same job that I love doing. I own a beautiful home in Bellbrook where I’ve lived for 13 years. I’ve also been a volunteer firefighter /EMT for the city of Bellbrook. I acquired those skills later in life because I wanted to give something back to my community. My passion is mission work in other countries and disaster relief work here in the states. I’m also a Red Cross volunteer. I’ve been blessed with many accomplishments over the years.
My mother passed away in 2009. I never did have the mother daughter relationship that I’ve always yearned for. But I was able to come to a place of forgiveness with her and we established a good relationship. I was there at her bedside the night she passed away. For that I am thankful.
I look back over the years and can’t believe, one how old I am, I never thought Id live to be 25, and two, that I’ve actually made something good of my life. As difficult and painful as my life was as a teenager, I wouldn’t change any of it. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without those experiences. Because of BB I’m a survivor, a fighter and a former BB kid who has learned how to fly and continues to soar. They saved my life and I am forever grateful!"