“You are special,” reads the note from Arianna Wilson of Portage, “and you are not alone either.”
Arianna, who enjoys riding her bike and is looking forward to playing on her volleyball team this year, is an inspiration at only 17.
She’s that Arianna, of Arianna’s Heart, a charity that gives foster children backpacks stuffed with comforting items like soft blankets and stuffed animals and fun toys.
“In one of my foster homes, someone gave me a stuffed animal,” said Arianna, who has been happily adopted by her parents Deb and Howard, “I’ve kept it with me since I was six.”
Arianna’s Heart seeks to deliver this kind of lasting comfort, this token that says “you matter,” to children in their darkest hours. Arianna includes a note in each backpack. Arianna’s note is a message of hope; she draws on her own experience as a foster child and sends a message that she would’ve liked to hear.
“I want kids to have something that they can hold onto,” said Arianna.
The backpack includes crayons that will get worn to nubs, notebooks that will fill up to every inch, and tissues that will surely become used – tactile objects that kids can literally hold on to. But Arianna’s message of hope is an idea they can hold onto forever.
The hope that pours from Arianna’s heart is the hope that got her to where she is today. Today, she is a lifeguard at the pool Riverview in Lake Station who looks forward to an active senior year and wants to become a social worker. She loves her recently rescued shar pei-mix, Kirk, who “chose her,” according to Deb. Last year Arianna was reluctant to speak to foster children, having been asked to visit at a local group home. This year, Arianna’s found the words she’d like to share.
“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13
At the age of eight, Arianna was ready to be baptized, but the baptismal was broken. The pastor suggested alternatives, but Arianna wouldn’t budge. She was baptized in freezing cold water, despite the pastor’s warning. She’s tough as nails, and she was going to do it right.
This is the message of hope that Arianna brings to foster children right here in Northwest Indiana. She knows what they are going through, and she knows that sometimes you just need to be reminded that you’re strong. You will come through this. You are important.
“It’s a message that would’ve helped me when I was little,” Arianna said.
If you would like to offer comfort to a foster child in a tight spot, you can support Arianna’s Heart by donating lap blankets and stuffed animals or monetary donations to P.O. Box 413, Portage Indiana. For more information about Arianna’s Heart, visit their facebook page.