MOOSEHEART – Every seat was filled Thursday at the Indiana Home at Mooseheart Child City and School.
There were dishes of turkey, mashed potatoes, deviled eggs, corn and rolls. Pies were waiting for dessert. It was like any other traditional scene at a Thanksgiving meal, but at Mooseheart, there were a few twists.
The Indiana Home is occupied by girls in elementary through high school. Each one has a unique story of how she came to arrive there. And, as they prepared to sit down to the meal, they described how they are embracing the experiences they share now.
Vero Page, 11, said she has been at Mooseheart for six years. She said she was there because her mother was a single parent and needed to focus on working. Kassadi Crowe, 13, has been there since 2009, and said she is there because “I do not get along with my parents. At all.”
Sia Mahoney said she and her sister, Kumba, were there because their father wanted them to be in a positive environment.
They are among those who live there with a family teacher, Phillip Morgan, his wife, Kayla, and their 2-year-old daughter, Charlie. Phillip Morgan said his parents also are family teachers at Mooseheart and the opportunity to help was a strong draw.
“We just wanted to work for something more than a paycheck,” he said. “At the end of the day, we wanted to feel rewarded.”
The girls at the Indiana Home said they learned structure. They go to school, and they earn the opportunity to have fun. Audrey Snow, 14, said every day is scheduled. There are off-campus outings, such as shopping or movie trips, and they are earned.
“If you have a good day, you have more privileges,” Audrey said. “But you have to ask. They have to know where you are at.”
“You have to earn the fun,” Vero said. “They want you to have good behavior. They want to prepare you for life.”
Not all residents are there for every holiday. Many will visit relatives for Christmas or another special occasion. There are regular family-style meals, but not all are like the Thanksgiving spread.
Kassadi said a reward might include an opportunity to select a special meal. For her, there would be eggs and bacon for breakfast, macaroni and cheese for lunch and maybe tacos for dinner, if she couldn’t select a steak.
And while every day includes a schedule, not every day is exactly the same. Vero said she is an active athlete and the captain of the cheer team. Sia Mahoney said she “plays every sport – volleyball, basketball and track.” And Audrey said some girls wanted to add soccer and softball.
They have meals together. They prepare for classes. They learn key skills.
“It’s kind of like a normal family,” Audrey said.
Phillip Morgan said it is a great responsibility to help Mooseheart students to achieve their dreams.
“Our primary job is to teach social, academic and independent living skills to the youth here,” he said.
“We want to model to these kids what a family is like.”