The Power of a Family—The Story of What Love Can Do
As we enter November, the season of giving and National Adoption Month, I’m thrilled to share my personal story about the power of a family and what love can do in a child’s life. One thing I’ve learned throughout my journey is my current situation is not my final destination. The unfortunate and traumatic beginning to my life could have either defined me or refined me. I’ve chosen the latter. My life has been a symphony of experiences, leading me to exactly where I am meant to be, and that started with an ordinary family who said “yes” to me, a little girl who needed their love during the darkest time in my life.
I am STRONG. At three months old, I was abandoned at a local church. The family I went home with would not only provide love and stability, but one day would become my forever family. The following fourteen months that I spent with them gave me the strong and stable foundation I needed to endure life’s storms, which began when the security I had felt came to a screeching halt when I was taken from this family and placed instead with biological family members. Even though I endured four years of horrible abuse at the hands of my biological family, my purpose in life had been set into motion. I must always remember how STRONG I AM!
I am GRATEFUL! When I was five years old, someone reported the signs of abuse. I was immediately taken for a forensic interview and placed in foster care. That forensic interview at the Children’s Advocacy Center in Texarkana was the beginning of a brand-new life for me. Their team of experts listened to my story, believed me, and, when I was done, gifted me with a bear and a little yellow blanket. What a blessing those items were on that day. That forensic interview changed the trajectory of my life. Six weeks later, I was reunited with my future forever family, the same family that loved me as a baby girl. I quickly came to recognize that I was chosen, loved and cherished.
I choose to always remember the joy I felt on my adoption day when I officially became Allie Grace Graves. I must always remember that there is hope to be found every day and always remember to be grateful.
I am BRAVE! Because of the love and faith instilled in me by my forever family, at seven, I courageously voiced my testimony in court against my abuser and he was sent to prison, never to hurt another child again. I truly am living proof of what love can do. I know I am, and always will be, a voice for the voiceless. It’s my prayer that I will always choose to remember to remain as brave as that little girl in the courtroom.
I am an OVERCOMER! I will never forget the excitement I felt at seventeen when I was chosen to serve as Miss Texas’ Outstanding Teen. What a true testament to the power of family it is that an abandoned baby, an abused toddler, and a former foster youth would grow up to become an advocate for children and would inspire others with her story of overcoming.
I am BLESSED. Because of the love of my family and because they pointed me to an abundant life in Christ, I have had the honor of sharing this redemption story with thousands of people, as I served two years as Miss Texas’ Outstanding Teen. I was able to be a voice for the voiceless. I’m now a sophomore at Ouachita Baptist University, whose undergraduate degree is fully funded, and a person who looks for the joy in every situation.
In June 2021, I crowned a new Miss Texas’ Outstanding Teen, but the message and mission of “What Love Can Do” is far from over. Currently, we are beginning the eighth Annual Healing Hearts Blanket and Teddy Bear Drive. Over the past eight years, we have collected thousands of new blankets and new bears that have been lovingly distributed to Children’s Advocacy Centers in Arkansas and Texas. This year, it is my prayer that we collect the largest number yet so that these simple items can bring just a little comfort and joy to the hundreds of children in our area who undergo forensic interviews after suspected abuse or neglect. In Texarkana, you can drop bears by The Village Floral and Gifts, First Baptist Church in Wake Village, OPTIONS Academic High School, or you can drop them by the Children’s Advocacy Center.
I truly believe that every child is one caring adult away from being a success story!
Texarkana, please consider doing your part to bring hope and healing into the lives of our most vulnerable citizens, our children.