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Dear Dear Friend,,

Our Families Need You!

Black Friday holiday shopping was in full swing this year! The stores were packed with strangers, neighbors and friends, all excited to get that great deal on the perfect gift. The latest electronics were displayed right as you walked in the store for all to see. The toy aisle was filled with all of the gifts I remember getting as a child...and many toys that are the new craze.

As I walked up and down the aisles, my mind began wandering back to our children at Devereux the thousands of children in our care during this holiday season. For many, this would be their first holiday season away from home. For others, this would be the first time they ever celebrated the holidays.

One family, in particular, came to the forefront of my mind….the Peete Family. You may have learned of the Peete family recently through the Orlando Sentinel or Central Florida News 13.

Felecia Peete is a mother of four grown children that she raised while working full time. Almost four years ago, Felecia learned that her nephew and his children had been found homeless, living out of a rusted Ford sedan. All six children were taken into foster care shortly thereafter.

"The way I was raised, we take care of our own" said Felecia as she completed the paperwork to take the four youngest children into her home, three boys and a girl. The two eldest children were adopted by another aunt. That December, the four children spent their first Christmas with their Aunt Peete. This would be the last happy holidays they would share together.

Shortly after the holiday decorations came down, the oldest, Tyler, started dragging his right leg and awkwardly curling his left arm up toward his chest. The once-bright child would forget his homework — and, gradually, how to do it. After many doctors’ visits and tests, Felecia learned that the three boys all have a rare genetic disorder called Adrenoleukodystrophy, or ALD, which damages the insulating membrane around nerve cells in the brain. In its most severe form, it is fatal.

Felecia lost the oldest child in January. The next oldest passed in August as Felecia sat by his bedside, watching him slowly lose the ability to do anything more than cry. Both boys were 8 years old when they died.

"It's heartbreaking “ says Felecia. “They were so young, and I didn't know anything about it at first. And then when I found out — well, you can't ever prepare for something like that. … When my door is closed at night, I crumble.”

But it was how the 55-year-old woman has dealt with the loss that stood out to social workers. “Felecia has no bitterness in her heart. She is not bitter toward the expenses or the financial hardships she is now experiencing or the adoption process — and certainly not to these four children. And she is still so positive about her purpose in their lives" said Carrie Hoeppner (DCF).

The disease has already been detected in 6 years old Tyveon. Luckily, doctors diagnosed his condition before he developed symptoms so he was able to undergo a procedure early this year that may give him a chance for a normal life. While his prognosis is good, he remains vulnerable to infections until his immune system develops to the point where he can be vaccinated next spring. Until then, the 6-year-old must be home-schooled and kept away from anyone suffering so much as a cold.

Between the children's repeated hospitalizations and the need to tend to them around the clock, Felicia has lost her job and makes an annual income of $13,000, one sixth of her normal income, working for an insurance company from home. The Peete family is now considered impoverished by federal standards.

"I figure God only puts on you what you can bear," she said. "So maybe I served the purpose of helping [the two children who passed away] experience what it was really like to be loved. They knew what it was really like to be in a stable home and to have somebody really care about them. They were happy, I know that — at least before they got sick. Even had I known all that was to come, I still would have adopted them. I see the intellect and spunk of Tyanna, the 7-year-old who loves makeup and science, and the toughness of Tyveon, who can already read books and write his own name.”

The Peete family is just one of the hundreds of families that we see every day at Devereux. Each of their stories will break your heart and inspire you all at the same time. You can help another family like the Peete family. In honor of Devereux’s 100 years nationally and 25 years of providing services to children and families in the state of Florida, I ask you to consider a gift of $125.

These families need YOU! You ensure that they have the wonderful holiday season that they deserve.

Your gift of:

  • Peete Family$50 can help ensure that children can be united with a family member or relative by helping with the expenses of the adoption process.
  • $125 can mean more than little league it can mean a lifetime of friendships or a chance to understand what it means to be a part of a team.
  • $250 can provide the wonderful memory of a holiday season filled with presents and decorations throughout the house. More importantly, it will mean a holiday filled with love and happiness.
  • $500 can keep the lights and heat/AC on for an impoverished family.
  • $1,000 can help cover medical expenses for children like Tyveon who are in need of specialized care.

Make your donation online by visiting http://appeal.devereuxfl.org

From our family to yours,

Dan Samuels
Dan Samuels
Director of Development
Devereux Florida
Email: dsamuel@devereux.org
Phone: 407-362-9243

P.S. "I love Christmas a lot," 7 year old Tyanna said one day last week. "Even if it is kind of sad." Thank you in advance for helping children like Tyanna have a reason to celebrate this holiday season.

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