Photo by Katherine Locke.
TUBA CITY, Ariz. — It was a rainy day in Tuba City Sept. 9, but it was a day filled with blessings as Chance Petersen delivered a truckload of supplies and basic needs to foster children in the Tuba City area.
With help from Arizona Helping Hands, Chance’s foundation Giving Chances, and volunteers delivered beds and cribs, backpacks filled with school supplies, diapers, toys, lunch bags, personal care items and lots of clothes.
The delivery took place at Lousie Yellowman Park. Yellowman was on hand along with Coconino County Board Supervisor Lena Fowler.
Chance, 12, has spent much of his own life in and out of Phoenix Children’s Hospital because of a rare kidney disorder. But that has not stopped him from thinking about others. In fact, it was because of his hospital stay that foster kids in Tuba City had something to smile about Saturday.
On one of Chance’s visits to the hospital, he met a young girl who is a member of the Navajo Nation and who was in the Nation’s foster care program. Through her, he met Elsie Elthie, a foster care licensing specialist for the Navajo Nation.
Elthie, who is based in Tuba City, shared with Chance that there are about 500 children in foster care spread out over the reservations’ 27,000 square miles. Elthie’s caseload averages 65 children and spans 5,549 square miles. Many of her families have no running water or electricity and their needs are extensive.
Both Elthie and the young foster girl Chance met, shared with him the many needs of kids in the foster care program on the Nation some basic like not having jackets or water. Chance said he kept thinking about that. He decided delivering supplies to Tuba City to Elthie and the foster kids should be one of the first projects he should do.
“I reached out to my school and some of the schools in the surrounding area and they’ve been giving me the lost and found,” Chance said. “They have a lot of stuff that no one will ever take and that will be giving to Goodwill or something. I talked to the schools and got a lot of the clothes.”
Dan Shufelt, president and CEO of Arizona Helping Hands, based in Scottsdale, is one of the state’s largest nonprofit organizations dedicated to helping children in foster care. Using social media, Shufelt ran across a post from Chance, which said that he was trying to help foster care kids by collecting donations from people in his community and he was looking for a truck to deliver supplies to Tuba City.
As luck would have it, about two months prior, Arizona Helping Hands received a donation of a 20 foot box truck, courtesy of the Valley Auto Dealers Association.
“My response to Chance was, ‘I’m sure there are things that Arizona Helping Hands can help you out with and we have a truck,’” Shufelt said.
Shufelt met Elthie through Chance. Elthie shared with Shufelt some of the same things she shared with Chance and how big Elthie’s individual case load is over a vast area.
“It enhanced our desire to make a difference up there,” Shufelt said.
Chance said the response from his community has been great and he is getting help from surrounding communities too.
“Every day, I have been getting donations or going out to get some,” Chance said.
Chance’s inspiration for starting Giving Chances Foundation, which he founded in 2016, came from meeting a foster child inside at Phoenix Children’s Hospital.
“I always thought wouldn’t it be fun to just help out people like him,” Chance said. “Just giving back to people.”
Fowler thanked Chance, his parents and Arizona Helping Hands and said it is important for foster kids to remain on the reservation with people who can teach them Navajo culture.
“I want to also thank the parents and grandparents who are keeping their children home and taking care of them at home and teaching them the values of Navajo and their language, that is so important,” Fowler said. “I just want to thank all the families who are here and the ones who weren’t able to make. It’s a beautiful day. It’s raining and we are blessed. Thank you so much for thinking of our Navajo children and families.”
Elthie said she needs more foster families for Navajo children on the reservation.
“We need to keep these children in our community,” she said. “If you can get something out of today, advocate for me, help me. I need foster homes. I need homes here in Tuba City on the Navajo reservation. That is the most important thing, I want to say today. I want to keep our children in our own community here, people that they know, people that they are familiar with.”
Shufelt spoke to the gathering of foster kids, officials from the Navajo Nation and the crowd.
“For someone of such a young age to take it on himself to help other kids … for him to reach beyond himself, to give of his heart. Arizona Helping hands is really happy to partner with Chance and to make this whole project a reality and to make it as big as it is.”
Shufelt said that kids coming out and making a difference in the world and spreading a message of love is important.
“Chance is an inspiration for everybody,” he said.
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