Compassion, Youth Development, and Foster Care! For Me, Here’s Why!

Sheryl Maria White, Founder

This is how it all started, I was passing time with my iPhone, scrolling, when I happen to read an interesting post on Instagram. A Sista with a big heart in Tampa, Florida had exceeded her goal of collecting suitcases. Fantastic!  But she was collecting suitcases for children aging out of the parental care of the state, that might otherwise get trash bags to pack up their stuff and go. Not fantastic.

Instantly, I hoped it was different in Chicago, but an uneasy and queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach told me, no, and it somehow felt weird that I didn’t already know the answer. Eventually, I was puzzled to the point of texting a friend that works for the State of Illinois, Department of Family and Children Services (DCFS) to ask. She sadly confirmed, same here, garbage bags for Youth in care. 

When I asked if I could donate 66 suitcases, she sent up an email, YES, was the response that came back, and that DCFS, Child Services was excited at how life changing this could be. I was then asked if I could jump on a Zoom call as early as next week to discuss my ‘Roll Out in Style” suitcase drive. To my surprise, I was also informed that, this would be a Statewide initiative.  Fantastic! But, again, I felt that uneasy and queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach.

When life gives you lemons, don’t settle for plain lemonade, upgrade your thirst, make pink lemonade!

Well, all weekend I kept wondering, why so favorably quick, why so very responsive, and why a statewide initiative?  But then, on the Zoom call and after a small exchange of introductions, and pleasantries, the state mentions they already put some thought into how the suitcases would be dispersed. Great, because I had only thought about the collection and storage of the suitcases, never about how these suitcases would be divided or sorted. Well, the State’s plan, the only one on the table at that moment, was a lottery. Basically 66 suitcases would be divided up between 13 agencies throughout the state and raffled off, lucky recipients would receive suitcases, but the not so lucky, trash bags. Not fantastic.  

This was the moment I decided to find a way to provide a suitcase for every child aging out of State care. These beautiful children did not win the lottery of remaining with their birth family, or being adopted into a loving home. Doubt was slowly creeping in as I wondered how I would do it but then God answered back, “don’t be scare, just do it”.   

Today, I’m doing it as a non-profit, by bring awareness to the community and in turn the community helps. I knew that most people don’t realize that, age eight, is the average age a child enters foster care, and by age 17, this child may have been placed in and out of, 3 to 10 different temporary homes and as many public schools. Never could I imagine being that 8-year-old child, who at age 18, has no other option than to navigate a scary new world, with no positive family structure, and your State wishes you well, with yet another trash bag?

So, yes, Pink Lemons, started with a suitcase, but it’s not just about suitcases. It is about how a simple phrase, “when life gives you lemons”, has always been the theory and practice of my humble life. Pink Lemons is here for making life a little sweeter for under-represented, under-resourced, and underserved youth of various communities. Together we can raise awareness, educate and empower, our future generation to realize their passions, skills and talents and become true leaders.

If you are a heart-led human, and chances are if you made it to the end of my rant, make your lemonade with Pink Lemons! Hit that DONATE button! When you do God’s work, no donation is too small or too big, so donate today!

Thank you, kindly!


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