This Saturday, May 18 is Lady Bo’s Third Annual Rockaway Beach Fitness Crawl, a day dedicated to not just boosting health, fitness and fun—but also paying it forward by giving foster children some comfort, dignity and hope.
Supporting foster children is a cause close to Fitness Crawl organizer and Broad Channel resident Brenda McInnes’ (aka Lady Bo) heart because she too was once a foster child, and wanted to do something positive for these children, whose heartbreaking road she’s once walked with her four siblings. Proceeds from the annual crawl go towards Comfort Cases, a nonprofit that since 2013, has helped thousands of foster children across the country trade in trash bags for their very own backpacks, lovingly filled with basic necessities they can call their own.
According to the U.S. Children's Bureau (CB), on any given day, there are nearly 443,000 children in foster care. Many children are separated from their siblings, bouncing from one foster care placement to another, never knowing when their lives will be uprooted next. During the chaotic upheaval, they travel from place-to-place with just a trash bag containing their few possessions. McInnes shared that this is an indignity she and her two brothers and two sisters endured after being removed from their biological mother.
“My younger brother and I share the same dad, which was my mom's first husband, and when they divorced and she remarried, she had my other siblings. My mom was really mentally and emotionally unstable, and stuff happened that triggered child services to one by one, take us all away. When she was pregnant with my youngest brother, as soon as she gave birth, they took him away and made her tie her tubes.
“At age three, I was the first one to be taken away, and put in foster care. I spent time in a few homes, but then thankfully my grandparents decided to adopt my brother, Sean and me. They could not take all five of us in, as it was too much for them, so my other siblings ended up being separated in different foster homes, where they moved constantly,” McInnes said.
According to The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), most states encourage efforts to provide the birth parents with support (e.g. mental health, drug/alcohol treatment, child care training and assistance, and housing) so their child can be returned to them. However, when parental rights have been terminated by the court, most states will try to place children with relatives, which may lead to adoption.
“There’s a lot of good in the foster system, but there’s a lot of bad. There is no definitive line as to when the biological parent should be cut off. I still have many unanswered questions concerning my mom. Also, many people take in foster children for state benefits, not really because they want, much less love children. My brother, Dan, was adopted by a beautiful gay couple, who have a total of eight children they adopted. They truly love Dan and his adopted siblings, who are all racially and culturally diverse. My sister, Chelsea, also was adopted by a loving family. Unfortunately, my sister, Linda, was not placed in the best of circumstances. You can see the difference, based on where we went, in the adults we became and our relationships today. Linda has two children, and one on the way. We are not close. Maybe it’s because where she was placed or maybe not. She’s the only one that we are not close with. I love and hope for the best for my sister, but there’s definitely a separation,” McInnes said.
According to the CB, research has shown that those who leave care without being linked to forever families have a higher likelihood than youth in the general population to experience homelessness, unemployment and incarceration as adults. The AACAP states that about 30 percent of children in foster care have severe emotional, behavioral or developmental problems. Most children, however, show remarkable resiliency and determination to go on with their lives.
Twenty-eight-year-old McInnes, despite her past’s upheavals, is a positive person, and it shows in her dedication to promoting health and wellness, not just for herself, but others. She is a yoga instructor, teaching both children and adults, and is also an avid runner.
“Life has not been easy, but every day I strive to be positive and take care of my body and spirit. This is also why I decided to launch the fitness crawl three years ago. It’s an opportunity for the community to do something wholesome together, with the added benefit of paying it forward by blessing children in foster care, and to build awareness. I know what it’s like to bounce from place-to-place with just a garbage bag. When I discovered the nonprofit, Comfort Cases, I immediately fell in love with their mission. Gifting a backpack filled with hygienic products, blankets, books and more is such a sweet blessing for foster children, who sometimes are yanked out of their homes with just the clothes on their backs. It gives them dignity and a sense of ownership. Foster children, despite the circumstances they were thrust in, deserve better,” McInnes said.
The Third Annual Rockaway Beach Fitness Crawl kicks off at 12 p.m. at various local fitness/wellness centers including Ocean Bliss Yoga, NurtureU Wellness, Hot Yoga Rockaway Beach, Burn Fitness, CROM and Rockaway Retreat House, with each offering 20 to 30-minute classes. Attendees can freely choose which classes they would like to attend. Also Fat Cardinal Bakery, Roasters, and Rockaway Farmers Market will distribute smoothies and fresh juices to participants. CROM and NUW will have water stations.
The after-party with a live DJ, appetizers, adult beverages and raffles galore will be from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at The Wharf (416 Beach 116th Street). Registration for the crawl is $90, which includes a swag bag filled with gifts from local businesses and admission to the after-party. If you say that you read about the Fitness Crawl in The Rockaway Times, your admission will be discounted to $65, including the after-party! Register at eventbrite.com. You can also sign up in person on Friday, May 17, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. or on Saturday, May 18, 11p.m. to 12 p.m. at Ocean Bliss Yoga (533 Beach 126th Street). For folks who just want to attend the after-party at The Wharf, admission can be paid at the door.