By Lloyd Sowers
Forgotten Angels' in Valrico helps those who age out of foster care
VALRICO, Fla. - Young people who age out of foster care at 18 years old can face a crisis. Caught between childhood and adulthood with limited experience and guidance, they often become homeless or get in trouble with the law.
Now, there’s a place in Valrico created especially to help those young people called Forgotten Angels. The founder, Cindy Tilley, grew up in foster care.
"I’ve been there, I’ve lived this, I know what it feels like to feel like you’re out there and no one’s there to help you.," said Tilley.
We’re standing at the center of her 12-acre property dotted with tiny houses. Seventeen young men live in the houses. Tilley and her executive director, David Tyler, help them finish high school, get into college, and get jobs. Jason Cook, 22, was in foster care until it abruptly ended on his 18th birthday.
"They just throw you out into the real world," said Cook. "They just say you’re an adult now."
Cook said after leaving his foster home he lived in his car with his dog until he found Forgotten Angels. They gave him a tiny house, helped him get into college, helped him start his own auto and motorcycle detailing business, and made him part of a family.
"Ever since that they’ve been great people. They actually care and love me," he said.
Tyler is like the dad who allows his kids to stay as long as they need.
"It’s on a case by case basis," said Tyler. "Whatever their needs are, we provide whatever we can do to move them forward, we do."
They’ve moved forward thanks, in part, to people on two wheels, motorcycles.
"Whether you’re a bad boy on a Harley or whether you’re wearing a pocket protector and riding a Honda, and trust me I like both," said Josh, who has a popular channel on YouTube called "Shadetree Surgeon."
Earlier this month, he helped draw motorcyclists from all over the country for a camp out here that ended with more than $400,000 in donations. There are plans to expand.
"I bought a property right around the corner from them and quite a bit of land and allowed them to put some boys over there," said Ash Rader, a neighbor and donor who said he was captivated by Tilley’s story and how she’s turned it around to help others.
Rader is rehabbing a home on the adjoining property that could more than double the number of former foster kids they can help.
"This their home. We become their family," said Tilley, who promises to help many more forgotten angels.
They’re planning another campout in October. For more information, visit www.forgottenangelsflorida.org