Former Foster Child Pays it Forward with Luggage Project
To Mike, the founder of Mikey’s Luggage, every child deserves dignity, regardless of her or his situation. As someone who grew up in foster care, Mike said he always struggled with moving from home to home with his belongings — indeed, his entire life’s possessions — clumsily stuffed into a couple of trash bags.
“When other schoolmates see that there’s a car with a county official stamp on it and back seat full of trash bags or boxes full of stuff, your peers know what’s going on, and they figure out real quick that you’re a foster child,” Mike said.
That was one of the most difficult experiences for Mike as a foster child. When he finally landed with the foster family that eventually adopted him, he promised to help other foster kids survive the transitional period. In 2013, he made good on his promise and started Mikey’s Luggage, which helps to replace the garbage bags with brand new luggage that foster children can call their own. Garbage bags are meant for garbage, not for one’s most-prized possessions.
“If I could grant one wish for foster kids today, it would probably be to give them some dignity, and I think the first place we can start is through luggage,” Mike said. “I think the dignity comes from the normalcy of suitcases, something that is traditionally used by everybody else.”
Mikey’s Luggage works with Koinonia Family Services, who helps foster children in California and Nevada, to ensure that every suitcase donated goes directly to a foster child. Les Schwab Tire Centers is proud to support Mike’s cause by designating its Sacramento-area locations as drop-off centers for area donations.
Mike knows the little things can make a big difference for children living in foster care, and the way they collect and move their material lives matters.
“That’s kind of my rock, you can’t touch it,” he said, reflecting on the importance of his own bag as a child. “It’s the one thing you can’t take from me. That’s why I started Mikey’s Luggage.”
To contribute a new suitcase or duffle bag to a foster child, simply swing by one of the Sacramento-area Les Schwab stores and let the on-duty manager know it’s for Mikey’s Luggage.
Center for Hearing Loss Helps Youth Gain Language Skills, More
For families like the Longshores, who have two children with hearing impairments, enlisting the right help can be a real challenge.
“Our second child, Brooklyn, was born with hearing loss that progressively worsened to the point that she was deaf by age 1,” said Ashley Longshore. “We desperately wanted to get her sufficient support to allow her (auditory) verbal skills to catch up to other kids her age without hearing loss.”
The family began researching auditory-verbal development schools, which led them to the Children’s Choice for Hearing and Talking Center (CCHAT) in Sacramento, Calif. The school focuses on speech and language development for hearing-impaired youth up to third grade in a one-on-one format. The school’s early intervention services and educational programs provide invaluable support for children and families throughout Northern California, regardless of socioeconomic status.
Brooklyn, who is now 6 years old, has made the most of the center.
“We could never have imagined that Brooklyn’s speech and auditory-verbal skills would have progressed so quickly,” Ashley said. “Brooklyn loves school, is very proud of her cochlear implants and her ability to communicate with them, and is loving life like any other 5-year-old.”
Our Sacramento-area Les Schwab team is proud to support the CCHAT Center and the families who depend on its services. “Mitch Harrison and his team — everyone at Les Schwab — have been so kind to help CCHAT out with multiple events, attending programs and fundraisers and allowing CCHAT to decorate their tire tree at Christmastime,” said Ashley.
Band Plays for Les Schwab’s Tireless Teacher
For students at Antelope High School, in Antelope, Calif., every pep rally and sporting event serves as a reminder of their band director Ritchey Hodge. Hodge wrote the school’s official fight song, which the band performs at school events. Hodge’s many talents, including the example he sets for student leaders as a performer and songwriter, have won him 2016’s Les Schwab Tireless Teacher Award.
The recognition is thanks to his band students, who wrote one-page essays about the teacher they believe best represents positive culture on campus. The Tireless Teacher Award recognizes outstanding teachers who have a positive effect on students. Students nominate a teacher they believe most deserves the award.
We at Les Schwab Tire Centers are proud to celebrate Hodge and teachers like him, who go above and beyond the call of duty with hopes of inspiring our future leaders. Thank you, Hodge, for being a superior role model for the Antelope High student body.