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Getting the help, courage to rebuild their lives | AYR-EYFS benefit
Ayla Dodd turns instinctively to her two little girls to help her cope.
When her babes laugh or cry, perhaps demand all of busy mom's undivided attention, Dodd learns to give more of herself.
Inspiring her, comforting her, broadening her perspective, the girls give back.
"Oh, yeah, they keep me on my toes," said Dodd, 19, fresh from a cherished round of after-school hugs offered up by Izabella, who turns 4 on Feb. 18, and Meera, 2. "They are my joy."
Family and friends also help Dodd keep going and to do the hard work of walking through the wreckage of her childhood.
Raped at 14, a single mom at 15, running with the wrong crowd and homeless off and on for a year, Dodd lived at one time in what can best be described as a "meth house."
And she fell into an abusive relationship.
Only when the court system stepped in did Dodd get the right kind of help. Emotionally and physically battered, she got professional guidance at Auburn Youth Resources (AYR) and the tools to rebuild her life.
It hasn't been easy.
"It took me a long time to realize that it wasn't something I did," Dodd said. "It wasn't right, it wasn't normal. It was (the man's) fault. He was hurting me. I've gone over that ... but the sad thing is I still sometimes blame myself ... for things I said or done."
Dodd tells her story as a guest speaker at AYR's 22nd Valentine Breakfast next Friday at Grace Community Church, the organization's largest fundraiser.
Natasha Moore will also describe how she beat back alcoholism and despair to become a successful businesswoman and AYR board member.
For Dodd, finding the right help was everything.
"You really have to pick and choose your support systems. I've had some really bad ones, honestly (from my past)," Dodd said.
Abby White, her therapist at AYR, is her main support.
"For the first two years, Ayla did not smile," White recalled.
Today she's found that smile.
"And it glows," White said.
Shelley Hall has seen the change in Dodd, too. Hall, program director at ACAP Child & Family Services, a nonprofit agency and partner AYR, works with Dodd's children while she attends automotive mechanic classes at Green River Community College.
"She's very strong, resilient and resourceful," Hall said of Dodd.
Through AYR and its partners, Dodd earned her GED. Today she also works part time and lives in her own apartment.
"She's successful in every way," Hall added.
Dodd is working on a career. She is married, a relationship that brought Meera into her life.
She has so much to live for.
"I'm probably a completely different person. I am so much stronger, so much more able because of AYR," Dodd said.
Rebuilding her life
Natasha Moore, pictured left, grew up faster, harder than most kids.
Raised by her grandmother, Moore overcame a broken home, alcoholism and suicidal intentions. Her mother abused drugs, Moore said, her father alcohol.
Feeling abandoned and victimized, Moore turned to booze to suppress her feelings. Drinking heavily in high school, her addiction had taken over her life until a trusted teacher and school counselor stepped in.
She eventually built a strong relationship at AYR, notably with her counselor, Dawn Winkes.
"She found herself and her being," Winkes said, "and she believes in that today."
Today Moore, 23, attends GRCC, focusing on humanities and passionate about art and its history. Moore works at Mud Bay, a healthy pet food retail store, taking charge of inventory and managing staff and sales.
She lives In Federal Way with her partner.
While her mother has long been out of the picture, Moore's father struggles to stay in Moore's life.
As an AYR board member, she supports people and programming.
"I help out wherever I can," Moore said. "Sometimes I feel like there's not a lot I can offer skill wise ... but I do what I can."
AYR helped turn her life around, and she appreciates the steps she's taken.
"They're the ones who built a relationship with me," she said of AYR staff, "and they are the ones I ended up coming back to. The fact is there's always hope, even if you're feeling like you're drowning and you have no idea of what to do next."
22nd annual Valentine Breakfast: 7 a.m. Friday, Feb. 8, Grace Community Church, 1320 Auburn Way S. The Auburn Youth Resources-Enumclaw Youth and Family Services breakfast is the organizations' largest annual fundraising event. Admission is free. Call to reserve your seat at 253-351-6059. For more information, visit www.ayr4kids.org.