Overcoming Childhood Trauma

The Villages’ mission is for all children to have a safe, loving and nurturing home and with the right interventions and committed adults, every child is given the opportunity to thrive. In his own words, Rob Triplett, Vice President of Corporate Banking with Old National Bank and a member of The Villages Young Professionals Advisory Board, shares his story about his childhood and the impact two, loving families have had on his life.

The only difference between my life and my friends and family, who unfortunately found themselves in prison, homeless, or dead, is a group of people took a chance on a kid. People exactly like those in the community at The Villages. These people have a pure passion to serve those less fortunate. Although my life has had its struggles, it is not uncommon and continues to happen in our community.

I was raised by a single father in one of the worst crime-infested cities in America, Flint, Michigan. My father was very much a product of his environment. Lack of education, long track record of criminal offenses, drug abuse, physical abuse, mental abuse, and overall lack of basic resources. As Malcolm Gladwell would say, the “Tipping Point” in my life occurred when a pastor’s family pulled my name from the “Angel Tree,” a program designed to provide Christmas presents to underserved families.

Long story short, that church community changed my life. The pastor convinced my dad to attend a drug rehabilitation program for 12 to 18 months. During his stay at the rehab, I had the privilege of living with a family in Grand Blanc, Michigan (The Sutters). This was the first time I lived in a house with basic resources. My earliest memory of The Sutter’s home was the amount of food we had every day. Pretty amazing to a kid that typically only ate at school. The Sutters were your typical middle-class suburban family. We went to church several times a week, ate dinner as a family and went on vacation. They forced me to do homework. Cindy (The mom) tucked me into bed every night and kissed me on the forehead, and overall gave a kid unconditional love that had never experienced true love. Rick (The dad) is my biggest role model until this day. I watched him put on a suit every morning and was excited to wake up and watch ESPN with him before he left to conquer the world. Once he returned home, he was happy, fun, loving, and overall a great man! That guy loves on me like I hope to love my kids one day. It seemed like a fairy tale. Overnight, I had everything a kid needed in a family.

Once my dad completed his rehab, I returned to Flint. Once again, my dad didn’t provide much stability or discipline for me. He didn’t know how to care for a kid because no one in his family showed him anything different. From age 12 to 14, my dad continued his drug addiction and abusive ways. I didn’t go to school, we lived in shelters, Section 8 trailer parks, and bounced around living in homes that were paid for by welfare.

At the age of 14, my dad was convicted of a crime and sentenced to prison. Overnight, I basically found myself homeless and bouncing around from home to home again. Like most kids in a tough situation, I didn’t tell anyone about the struggles outside of my family. I thought my situation was normal because it often was in Flint. We were all poor kids in the same situation with the same struggles. We were being raised by grandparents, aunts, cousins, etc.

Once again, God blessed me with a second shot at life. Another family from that church (The Steenberghs) asked me to move into their home with their three biological kids. Once again, I was with another family. I entered their home with a small grocery bag full of dirty clothes. Dan (The dad) is the epitome of a hard-working American. He’s my standard for being a man of God. Heidi (The mom) is the most loving human being a kid could ask for. She was put on this earth to simply love kids. She cooked for us every day, made sure our clothes were clean, was always willing to lend her advice, and let us learn things the hard way.

The Sutters and the Steenberghs both rallied behind me and raised me together. Both of my adopted families taught me that perseverance, consistency, and faith will take you anywhere you want to go. My passion for The Villages is seeing how much others are willing to sacrifice and provide for kids. Kids simply need to see that they’re loved and there are people who want to see them succeed in life. The Villages is giving kids like me a fighting chance at life and providing homes to kids who otherwise may be homeless or unsafe. Both families helped me realize the saying is true, “It takes a village to raise a kid.” Both families are the reason I finished high school, went to college, finished grad school, and work so hard on a regular basis. I’m blessed and living a life not intended for a kid with my family history. The Sutters and Steenberghs gave me every tool I needed to build my life. Without them, who knows where I would be in life?

Caring, stable and loving adults made a big impact on Rob’s life. Learn how you can make a difference in the lives of vulnerable children in Indiana by supporting The Villages. Read more here about how to get involved.

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