By Cheryl Brown
The Mokae Resource Scholarship Foundation held its fifth annual gala honoring aging out foster care teens in Las Vegas, NV recently. It was unfortunate that invited guests Denzel Washington and Antwone Fisher were unable to attend and some of the audience was disappointed, that is until they heard the testimonies of the youth.
The sorrow of these children and young adults knows no color. Two of the teens started to tell their story. "You have no idea how difficult it is for me to stand here and talk to you," one young woman said to the crowd of nearly 250 people. "Me and my sister lived with our mother behind a store living out of their trash bin. We couldnt go to school; We were homeless." She continued to talk about their mothers drug habit and how being homeless affected them.
"Once we were taken away from her. We had a bed to sleep in and an advocate to help us through everyday things that you just take for granted," she said. Her sisters story was similar but she said even being homeless she had the comfort and protection of her big sister. The audience was moved. Both young ladies with long blond hair, dressed very appropriately, said they had never been dressed up before nor had they come to an event like the gala.
Denzel wasn't there but Sammy Davis, Jr. (in the form of Lambus Dean) was there to sing and dance; Ruby Wilson flew in to surprise her mentor Xernona Clayton, producer of the Trumpet Awards; actor Bill Cobbs was present; and recording artist James A. Mosley, Jr. came all the way from Nashville, TN to sing. Several people flew in from different parts of the country to participate in this one of a kind event.
There were people from all walks of life. Pasadena Journal Publisher/Attorney Joe Hopkins and Clayton signed their books and a table was set aside for the Antwone Fisher book signing. Although he wasnt there, his books were available for purchase.
"Each year thousands of teenagers leave home and foster placements without the skills necessary to lead independent lives. Many times these teens become unhappy and frustrated with their situations and it often leads to depression and homelessness. The Mokae Resource Foundation creates a support system for them to guide them through the difficult transition to adulthood and self-sufficiency," states founder Mandy Mokae.
The foundation was founded by Mandy and husband Zakes, a Tony Award winning actor. Some of the teens also spoke about the Mokae Foundation providing them with groceries, and furniture.
That is the practical part of what the Foundation does. In addition to groceries, televisions, furniture, and computers, $1000 gifts were presented to students: Chris Wilbourn, Larry Drew, Jr, Angle Martinez, Evelyn Whitehead, Tela Cross and Tamara Collins. They additionally gave heart-warming presentations.
Others who could not attend -- actors Matthew Broderick, Sarah Jessica Parker, James Earl Jones, Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis -- supported the foundation,
First time attendee Dr. Edith Coleman of Kansas City, Kansas said it was "wonderful." She spoke about how she could relate because she had over 30 foster children.
From her experience these are the forgotten children. "People willfully forget them because they are not disciplined and self directed, plus they have had an abundance of negative experiences. Mandy is handling the challenge supremely," she said.
One of the problems many of these youth face are the tattoos that adorn their bodies. From being a part of the crowd or being in a gang, they (tattoos) keep them from advancing and getting jobs. Dr Disain, a plastic surgeon, removes tattoos for the Mokae Foundation teens.
Target stores also help with donations.
"I thank all of our supporters for their overwhelming support. We had 72 more people than RSVPd for the event and we were able to handle it. I thought the kids were wonderful. They were so good they spoke from the heart and touched everyone," said Mandy Mokae.
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