When he was 10 months old, Hayden was living with his mom, a meth addict, in a drug house. Child Protective Services found him and took him away. Hayden’s father was in prison at the time. In fact he’d been in and out of prison for nine years. So Donna, Hayden’s grandmother, gained permanent custody of him when he was 2 years old.
“Hayden has abandonment issues,” Donna says. “He sees a psychiatrist once a week and a family support specialist takes him to the park.”
Donna worked hard so Hayden could grow up in a stable home. But the little boy’s life suffered a severe blow when his dad was taken back to prison four years ago.
“When his daddy was taken away in a squad car, Hayden stood by the front door and cried for half an hour,” Donna says. She couldn’t get him away from the front door. “He was devastated. It broke my heart.”
What can soothe the heart of a 5-year-old boy who watched his father get taken away to prison?
“Angel Tree gives us emotional support,” Donna says, “and it helps take the stress away. … It puts these kids on the right path.”
It also connected Hayden to Lighthouse Church, where he gets the support he needs from male role models like Sid—the Angel Tree coordinator.
“I’m amazed by the love and effort that people put in for our children, “Donna says.
Friends that Understand
Hayden faces a lot of challenges. Other kids mock him because his father is in prison. But Angel Tree helps him deal with the ridicule, and feelings of disgrace, too.
“Hayden and I get to talk to other families who are in this situation,” Donna says. “And Hayden gets to play with other kids that aren’t mean and say, ‘Oh, your dad is in prison.’ … he doesn’t have to feel ashamed.”
Hayden loves spending time with the children at Lighthouse, and he also loves getting presents from his dad through Angel Tree.
Two Christmases ago, he received a dinosaur Lego set. This past Christmas he got a professional hockey team hat (the Ducks), a Gospel booklet, new Legos, and a navy blue sweat suit.
When Hayden received his gift bag delivered by Lighthouse church community, his eyes widened: “Look,” he said when he saw the gift tag signed by his dad in prison, “it has my name on it!”
Hayden is looking forward to seeing his dad a year from this Christmas, when he’s due to be released. They talk on the phone once a week and they visit in prison once a year.
The blessing of Angel Tree reaches far beyond Christmas! As Hayden waits to be reunited with his father, Angel Tree provides support throughout the year. He and his grandmother receive food baskets and attend Easter events, which include Easter egg coloring and Easter baskets. There’s also a summer barbecue. Hayden has even gone on fishing trips, which he loves!
Hayden’s life collapsed the day his daddy went to prison. But today, Hayden is getting the love and support of caring Angel Tree volunteers and the church community where it all happens.
Do you want to be a part of Angel Tree this upcoming Christmas season? You can register your church or group here.