By Lamont Nash
My father tried to kill me when I was three. I have memories of the event itself, like nightmares. He tried to drown me in a tub of hot, scalding water. I managed to run away and hide under an abandoned apartment building and several weeks later I was found by a man who called emergency services. An ambulance came and got me. My right leg had third-degree burns, which they repaired with a skin graft from my left leg. I became an orphan. When they couldn't find my mother or my father, I went into foster care.
My experience in foster care was not good. I was physically abused and sexually abused which in turn caused me to run away a lot. Some of the foster parents kept me for the money they received. I got picked on a lot at school for being a foster kid. I bounced around from group home to foster home, again and again. I was in the system until I was 18. And back then they never had aftercare. You were just done.
God didn't come into the picture until later. My foster parents took me to church, but I was forced to go. And I hated being forced to go to church by people who were abusing me. At this point in my life, I believed there was no God. At 15, I tried to take my life by overdosing on Prozac, the very drug they said would help me.
My faith grew when I was 20 and an older man started to mentor me. He didn't know me, but he took me in and did what my foster parents were supposed to do: showed me love and support. He didn't always agree with everything I did, but he supported me through it all. He showed me God's love by coming to pick me up and taking me to church. He found me a stable place to live. He took me to universities and schools and told me, "Lamont, you can have this life too, if you want it." When I did wrong, we talked about it, and when I did well, he praised me for it. He became my father and big brother all in one. He was my family.
The sad reality is that If the Christian community doesn't step forward, the gangs will. Gangs tell a story of "you belong here" which is what every foster kid is looking for. Our gym is a place where foster kids belong. We're a bunch of misfits. When they come in they're going to feel like they're part of our family.
I discovered my love for physical activity when I was eight years old while I was in an abusive foster home. The only thing that I could control (and that kept me sane) in my environment was working out. It helped me release a lot of my stress and anger about being abused at home and being bullied at school. I did run track and field, but most of the time you found me at the playground, running, doing pull-ups, and climbing. My love for play has evolved into my business, the Playground Training Academy. It looks like an urban playground. We have rock climbing, parkour, and ninja-warrior classes for kids and adults.
My newest passion is the Overcomers Foundation. I am working with a team to offer physical fitness classes for foster kids. This is a place where they can come and not only get a chance to work out and play, but be mentored by people who have been in the system themselves. I named it Overcomes because that is what I have done in my life, and I want other foster kids to have the same opportunity. Some of these foster families have multiple kids and they can't afford to put all the kids in different sports. We are working to rally our community to do just that.
These kids need patience and love. They need their parents to understand. Foster parents need to put themselves in these kids shoes for a second. They need to listen to them. Really listen. They need to get these kids involved in physical activity to release some of their pent up energy and emotions.