We can’t choose where we come from, but we can choose how we let it affect the rest of our life.
For 10-year-old Jayden Parker, he’s using his past circumstances to help others who share a similar story.
In 2014, Jayden and his younger brother were placed in the foster care system after living in a string of unstable home environments. That’s when Christy Parker stepped in and opened up her home as a place of refuge. Nearly three years into that foster care journey, Christy was able to officially adopt the two boys as her own.
Still, even in that new environment, Jayden’s mom knew he was carrying a lot of hurt and fear from his past.
“When Jayden first came into foster care, he had a lot of anger,” she says. “Obviously, it’s very traumatic to come into care, but I think that anger was there even before he came into foster care…he had a lot of trauma and a lot of fears.”
Christy admits that Jayden was a handful during his first year with her. Jayden himself remembers his behavior earning him the reputation of the “biggest bully in the neighborhood.”
In search for a solution and a way to occupy his time, Christy found WinShape Camps. Jayden went, and he’s never stopped going back.
For five consecutive years, Jayden has attended WinShape Camps for Communities in Bristol, Virginia, sponsored by local Chick-fil-A® Operator Dave Pollard. In those five years, Jayden’s mom says she has seen him grow and mature in the Lord.
Part of that growth came with a lawn mower.
After that first summer at camp, Jayden started his own lawn care business with a desire to work hard and help others. After every job, Jayden recorded the money he made — that’s if he even accepted payment — and always made sure to tithe a portion of his profit at the end of the week. He also kept a daily log of the lessons he learned while on the job – things like,
“Don’t say ‘I guess’ to everything” and “Be faithful with the little things that God has entrusted me with.”
As the next year’s camp season approached, Discovery Church Host Coordinator Hannah Pollard – also wife to Operator Dave Pollard – created cards with pictures of children in the community who wanted to attend camp but didn’t have the money to do so. She displayed the cards in the restaurant and shared them on Facebook in hopes that customers would see the children and be encouraged to help fund their camp experience.
Sure enough, Hannah immediately had a comment on the Facebook post from Christy. Jayden had heard God tell him to help someone, and he wanted to sponsor a kid for camp.
For months, Jayden mowed countless yards in order to raise enough money to sponsor one child to attend WinShape Camps. Knowing how much his experience at WinShape had impacted his life, Jayden was determined to return the favor to someone else. Turns out, that someone also happened to be a child in foster care.
Once camp started, Jayden made a point to be there early so he could look for his new friend and welcome him each day.
“Just going to meet him was a big honor to me,” says Jayden.
That kind of attitude is one that has infiltrated other parts of Jayden’s life, as well. When new foster children come into his home under Christy’s care, Jayden is always the first to greet them and make sure they’re comfortable in their new space.
Today, the effects of that first encounter with WinShape Camps is growing Jayden’s impact in his community and helping shape the lives of those around him for the better. In fact, Jayden’s story has helped raise $20,000 in scholarships, allowing many others in his community to attend camp.
“When you change a child, you can change their home,” says Hannah. “You change a home, and you could change a neighborhood. One kid like Jayden can make an impact.”