I thought it would be easy, but it is really difficult to find the words to express what I want. Just know that Brenda Sumner is one of the most wonderful people in the world and in my eyes is a hero.
I have a personal philosophy about being a hero. As a paramedic and EMT instructor, I teach EMS students that a hero does something because they are not required to. I truly believe Brenda is an American hero.
She has performed countless acts of kindness and compassion well above what she has ever been expected to do as a foster parent.
As a teenager I was placed in the custody of the State of Georgia. My first stop as a ward of the court was to a group home in Monroe. Entering the home everything was foreign to me. I was with people I did not know, in a city that I never knew existed. My first reaction was to close up and I became very defensive.
Some of the staff at the group home was not very friendly or helpful to the residents. It was their job to take care of us and it showed. I felt more like a bother than a child most of the time. Everything was so cold and uncomfortable and it seemed as if no one really cared. I really considered running away from the situation because in my mind anything had to be better than where I was.
One day a social worker arrived to talk to me. He told me to get my things because I was leaving to be placed in a home. In a way I was glad and in a way I was afraid. Once again I did not know what to expect.
When I arrived at my new home a warm, loving woman immediately greeted me. Brenda was a single woman who had recently lost her husband due to a motor vehicle collision. I was one of the first children to be placed in her care after the accident; however one would not have known. She was a pro who knew exactly what to do, and she immediately welcomed me into her home and made me feel welcome.
Brenda took me in during a time in my life when I know I was a difficult child. I was lost, but she knew exactly where I was emotionally. She stepped in my life and became the guide that helped me find my way. When I would make bad decisions, she would be there to guide me back on track.
If there were such a thing as a professional mother, then Brenda would fit the role. She knew exactly what to do when I needed help. She also knew how to help me learn to help myself. She did so by being a mother. Even though I was not her biological son, she still looked upon me as her child. She provided the same motherly love that any other mother would to their child.
Statistically, the odds are against most foster children unless you have Brenda Sumner as your foster mother. I owe a great deal to her. She helped me become who I am today and I am very happy where I am. I have had many bumps in the road; however Brenda was there during the critical times to point me in the right direction.
I am now 37, I have been married to a wonderful lady for 19 years, I have three of the best children, I have a successful career, and I am about to complete a PhD. All of this is because Brenda took the time to help influence this lost and troubled teenager. She gave me the self-confidence and self worth that I have used to make something out of my life.
Thomas Kamplain Jr. is program director of EMS and Fire Science Programs at DeKalb Technical College.