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Brandon’s Forever Home is a 501c3 charitable organization located in the heart of downtown Hazleton, PA created in 2014 to raise awareness about children in foster care and their need for permanent loving homes. It’s founding members, PA State Rep. Tarah Toohil along with myself, realized the need in our community and decided to start the foundation to assist children in need by offering many services including mentoring programs, a food pantry, clothing, and special events that these children would otherwise not have the opportunity to participate in.
My husband Michael and I are the proud parents of five children, two formerly in foster care. Co-founder and friend Tarah Toohil, persuaded us to consider adoption. Within two months of filing the paperwork, we were blessed with a baby boy, Michael Joseph, who was born and needed a home. This forever changed our lives! We also opened our hearts and home to Brittany, a beautiful young lady who aged out of foster care and was not provided the permanent family a child so desperately needs. Brittany once said before they took her into their lives, “Do you know what it is like to know that if you die tomorrow, you wouldn’t mean anything to anyone?” We were struck by this profound statement and wondered why was Michael so fortunate and Brittany was not? Through our experience, we want to provide hope and encouragement to the many people struggling to create “their family” and connect them with the many children placed into foster care due to issues of neglect, abuse and abandonment. It is our mission to ensure children in foster care are not the “forgotten ones.”
The Toohil family fostered over 40 children, one of them was Brandon. They wanted to adopt Brandon, however, the child welfare laws at the time made it extremely difficult. Tragically, Brandon died accidentally after suffering years of extreme abuse and neglect.
State Representative Tarah Toohil and myself created this foundation to support children caught in the child welfare system. How do we prevent this from happening to other children who, through no fault of their own, have a childhood like Brittany, ending prematurely like Brandon, and not Michael’s, or our other children?
Since its’ inception, Brandon’s Forever Home has worked to end the use of garbage bags for luggage for the over 400 children in the Luzerne County Foster Care system. Through our Rest in Peace Program, we have been able to give one child a proper burial who otherwise would have been left to the county. We have fed our community’s families, and clothed our community’s children. Children are welcomed to our home and given the opportunity to shop for anything they need including clothing, shoes, toiletries and personal hygiene products. The end goal of this is to provide these children with the tools they need to boost their own self confidence and fit in to society with the hope of connecting with their permanent family!