In 1995, I hit some tough times in my life. Getting into fights, stealing and being suspended from school was the norm. Mentor after mentor would quit on me, not seeing any change in my behavior. I was a lost cause in their eyes, someone that would either end up in jail or dead by twenty-one. I was ready to give up myself, until I was introduced to John Annoni. I knew of John from elementary school, I remember walking by his classroom, always seeing smiling faces and hearing laughter. It was such a positive atmosphere. But being accustomed to people coming and going in my life, I didn’t take him seriously. I believed he was going to be another mentor to quit on me. Before I knew it, a few weeks had passed and John was still there. He took me out to do positive things, he showed me life! To my surprise, I loved every second of it. I remember when we would go hunting and sit and talk about what was going on in my life and ways to make things better. John even invited me to meet his family and they opened their hearts and welcomed me as another member. He also did the simple things such as helping me with book reports, tests and homework a few times a week so I wouldn’t fail. I connected with John because I looked at him as a big brother, not as some textbook social worker.I finally found someone to look up to, a person that showed me I can do great things in my life if I could change my ways.
Eventually, John and I spent less and less time together. I was finally happy with myself, with my life, and I owed that to John. However, I would be challenged again. I was with a group of friends and they decided to rob some kids standing on the street corner. Not thinking, I stayed in the car instead of leaving. Naturally, we got arrested. I thought my life was over because I was the only one of adult age; the blame fell squarely on my shoulders. I didn’t know what to do or who to turn to. I never had a father figure. My friends were all I had. I couldn’t call John, I was scared. I didn’t want to disappoint him. Besides, I hadn’t spoken to John in months, why would he help me now? Although every bone in my body didn’t want to, my heart told me to call him.John took me in with open arms. He sat me down just like in the beginning of our relationship and we came up with a plan to get myself back on the correct path. I have been on that same path ever since.
I stay in constant contact with John and his family to this day. I have a great career and I have been married for eight wonderful years. We are raising our two beautiful daughters to be the best they can be and I owe that all to John. I volunteer my time to John and to help others in similar situations to mine. Anytime he needs me I’m there no matter what. I truly owe my life to John Annoni. If it wasn’t for his never say never and won’t quit attitude, I may not be here today to share this with you. At the time I thought John was only giving me attention. I had no idea that he actually gave me something much more important, hope.
Thank you John.
PS. I now volunteer for Camp Compass!