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Start 2015 off with a micro marathon

Walk/run to benefit Oregon's foster care program


Join the Strealys for a Micro Marathon Fun Run/Walk New Year's Day. The event is a benefit for Oregon Foster Care. Pictured from left are Alden, Niki, Ethan, Audra and Aidan.

There are many ways to start the New Year. Some people will enjoy ushering 2015 in by staying up reveling until midnight and beyond. Others might watch the ball drop in Times Square from the comfort of their living room and then head to bed.

Still others will start the New Year doing something to benefit others. Take Alden and Niki Strealy, for instance. They are organizing a Micro Marathon to take place New Year’s Day as a benefit for Oregon Foster Care.

The Lake Oswego couple, together with their children Aidan, 13, Ethan, 11 and Audra, 7, are planning the 2.62 fun run/walk because they love to run, and because the foster care program can use support. They know that because they have been a foster family for the last 13 months. Their foster children, whom they refer to as The Littles, are siblings, ages two and three.

“We combined our family love of running with our support of Oregon Foster Care,” said Alden Strealy. “All proceeds will go toward Clackamas County Department of Human Services.”

The Strealys became interested in becoming foster parents two years ago when they learned at their church that there was great need for adoptive and foster parents in Oregon. At that time, 884 nonrelative families were needed to fulfill the needs in Oregon.

“We attended a meeting, thinking perhaps there might be a two or three couples there,” Niki said. “There were 500 people in attendance.” At the meeting, sessions on adopting international children or U.S. children and being a foster parent were offered. The couple originally thought they would adopt, since Alden has two adopted siblings plus a natural birth brother. But something resonated with them about foster care.

“We didn’t know if we would be accepted,” said Niki. “We didn’t know if our house was large enough. We just kept at the process.”

They were approved and The Littles came to live with the Strealys.

“What every kid wants is a good parent, someone to provide love, food and consistency,” Niki said. “Until their parents can, we will fulfill that role.”

The Littles see their natural parents three times each week at the DHS offices in Oregon City. Niki Strealy drives them to and from once each week and DHS provides transportation for the other visits.

“It takes half an hour each way. And some children must travel one-and-a-half hours one way to the visitations. These are infants through teenagers,” Niki said. “Not only are the trips long, they are often traumatic, as visits with natural parents are stressful, with separation and uncertainty of where they are going and what will happen.”

“Every case is different,” explained Alden. “The kids’ parents are usually not allowed to drive and/or know where we live. So this must be facilitated by DHS. So, in some cases DHS transports all the time, and the visits may only happen once a week. And, travel time can obviously vary.”

When foster children are transported in DHS vehicles they are not allowed to eat and can bring one toy.

Alden remembers when one of the Littles was heavy enough to face forward in the car seat while riding in the car, and what a revelation it was to be able to see the screen on which movies could be played.

“It made the trip a whole new adventure,” he said. That gave him the idea of raising money to have DVDs installed in the state cars. That idea met with uncertainty of having vehicles dedicated specifically for DHS use. How about using iPads, which could be loaded with educational material and movies to educate the children on rides to DHS?

The Strealys’ plan is to raise money from the micro marathon to equip the DHS vehicles with iPads or similar devices to provide movies, games and entertainment for foster children. They plan to start with Clackamas County and the Tri-County area, and then as funds are available expand to other counties.

The micro marathon is also an awareness building event. The Strealys said that currently 8,700 children are in Oregon’s foster care program. Of those, 3,178 live in the Tri-County area and 387 live in Clackamas County.

“This has been an amazing experience for our kids,” Niki said. “They have learned compassion and are experiencing the real world. We considered living abroad for a period, but we’ve brought the world to us.”

“The experience has grown our kids,” Alden said. “They have always been supportive (of The Littles) and share a lot. We check in frequently regarding any frustrations they may have.”

“Our daughter is quite the little mother and our boys will be great babysitters,” Niki said. “It’s been a challenge, but an amazing experience.”

“I highly recommend it,” Alden said.

Cost to participate in the micro marathon is $26.20, which includes a t-shirt. The micro marathon begins at 10 a.m. at George Rogers Park, 611 S. State St. in Lake Oswego. Register at micromarathon.com.

Registration will also be available New Year’s Day, but T-shirts cannot be guaranteed.

To learn more about Oregon’s foster care program visit Oregon.gov/dhs/children/fostercare.

Contact Barb Randall at 503-636-1281 ext. 100 or by email at brandall@lakeoswegoreview.com.

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