SAFETY HARBOR, Fla. — The area was overrun with superheroes Saturday morning for a very special event.
The 5th annual SuperHero 5K brought around 800 participants to the marina to raise money for Guardian ad Litem, or GAL. It helps the 3,300 children across Pasco and Pinellas counties who have been removed from their homes because of to violence or neglect.
So many kids from the organization, including Elena Foster.
“My first parent is a substance abuser and then my dad is a drug dealer,” said the 22 year-old Foster. She entered the system at just 2 years old. “And it was more of like a bust.
"The cops busted into the home, and I got taken away due to substance abuse and drugs being in the home.”
Foster is now the daughter of Amy Foster, the executive Director of Guardian ad Litem. She stepped in when Elena needed it most.
"I couldn’t pass the ACT for nothing. So my mom came along and she was like, 'I’m going to sign you up for a boot camp.' And I was like, ‘Okay.’ And so she signed me up for the Bootcamp and I ended up passing the ACT with a 20. And that was very exciting.
"And from there I was like, 'Can you just adopt me by now?' You know?" Elena explained as she laughed.
Elena was one of those 3,300 kids, and she is grateful to not be a part of any other statistics: “It meant a lot because I was like, I’m not going to graduate from school. I am going to be another statistic.”
One-hundred percent of the funds raised will go directly back to helping kids in the system with whatever they need whether it’s legal support, academics or even with sports fees.
This year's event is set to bring in more than $60,000. The superhero theme fits perfectly with GAL's message and mission.
“We say that every child needs a hero, but abused children need superheroes," Amy Foster said. "And there are a lot of myths out there that people think you need to be an attorney or you have to know exactly what to do with children in order to be a volunteer child advocate, but anybody can do it."
To Elena, mom is her superhero.
“It’s more like, my forever home. Even though you’re 18 and it seems like, 'Oh, I don’t need anybody.' It’s like, I have somewhere to go if I’m having a bad day. I can finally go home and have gifts and Christmas and Thanksgiving. So it feels really good," Elena said. And after 18 years of searching for that forever home, she finally found it in Amy.
“It’s great. It’s a mother figure. Someone just to love, just to be there. And even when I’m wrong, she makes me feel like I’m right."
GAL's needs are greater than ever. This year, they have seen a 33 percent increase in children entering the foster care system from Pinellas and Pasco counties.
To help with the increase, GAL is also looking for volunteer child advocates to be those heroes. Some 1,800 advocates are needed so that every child going through the system can have representation.
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