There is no question about it; going on a Target shopping spree with a cop by your side is a bit unusual for most teenagers, but for kids at Journey to Dream (JTD) in Lewisville, it’s a fun and exciting way to do some Christmas shopping.
Journey to Dream is no ordinary “help” organization. The abundant love and support offered to kids between the ages of 14 and 19 are palpable, and it’s delivered in a language understood clearly by anyone on the globe. The language comes from the hearts and the souls of the people who shine a light on the paths of these at-risk youngsters.
Many of the kids are homeless, sleeping in cars or in parks. Food is scarce. Guidance is non-existent. No one provides health care. Pills are just one part of the available drug buffets. Milling around in the groups are individuals who easily could become doctors, lawyers, loving moms and dads, and college professors. Or, without help, they can become statistics in suicides, overdoses, prisons, human trafficking, and violent abusers.
Journey to Dream began in 2004 after Kim Jones-Pothier and Kari Rusco came together through the tragedies of their own lives. “Kari’s husband was in prison,” recalled Kim, “and my own life was in shambles. We had young children, and we needed to figure out what we would do.”
The women began looking into various programs for children and were surprised to learn there was nothing ongoing for teenagers.
“We were introduced to Betty Ford,” Kim continued. “Our conversations with her taught us the right words to express our thoughts to people who could help us. Kari and I were horrified to learn the things going on with kids, the pill parties, the cutting, and other self-abuses.
“We went to Hebron High School and told the administration we wanted to build a program with the tools needed to overcome these problems. They agreed. Three years later, Lewisville High School came to us and asked us to expand our efforts to include them. We literally had dreams coming true.”
In 2013, someone approached Kim about homelessness in kids 14 to 19. “I immediately knew we needed to build not a house but a home and fill it with love, support, compassion, mentoring, and guidance. It would accommodate both males and females, with live-in adult supervision. People came from everywhere to help us.”
Kyle’s Place, named after a brilliantly loving teen who committed suicide, opened in 2017 as part of Journey to Dream. It’s the only shelter and youth residential campus that serves unaccompanied, homeless youth in Denton County. It provides a stable, family-like environment where kids can cultivate a positive identity, break negative habits, take ownership of their present life and construct a plan for their future, and discover the life skills they need in order to function as loving, successful, responsible adults.
JTD currently reaches approximately 15,000 teens annually. That means 15,000 productive, confident adults-in-the-making, morphing through their adolescence, meeting their true selves along the way, and learning to believe in their ability to achieve goals.
“There’s no time limit regarding how long these young people may participate in JTD,” Kim explained. “What happens when they turn 18? They have a party! The kids we started with in 2004 are now in their 30s, and some still return to share Christmas.”
What could be more familial than Christmas? More “normal?” More joyful and love-filled? Yes, going with cops, in a cop car, to Target with a $150 gift card may be unusual, but it’s also a blast! There’s dinner for the approximately 100 kids and cops from several towns. They return to the JTD campus afterward to tables set up for wrapping. Other tables are filled with gifts for the kids – hats, scarves, gloves, hoodies, and more.
As one officer said, “It’s events like this that leave an indelible mark of respect on both the officers and the teens.”
The people who work at JTD/Kyle’s Place don’t refer to it as “work.” As one said, “I love what I do because of who I do it for. It’s where my heart lies. We just spend our time filling in the gaps.”