URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — A teenage pregnancy can be a stressful time for some families. So, one organization in Urbana decided to create a family with people who share the experience.
The YoungLives organization held its annual Thanksgiving dinner on Sunday. They invited young mothers, their children and loved ones out to be a part of it and to be inspired.
“I was really ashamed because I knew ‘better’ than to get pregnant, like while you’re a teenager,” said Xalina Ramirez Kennedy. “I had a scholarship. I had a plan for my life, and then I got pregnant. My whole life was upended.”
It’s a tale that so many teenage mothers know: to feel alone during, what some call, the hardest time of their lives.
“I skipped out on my partying years, I feel like, and I jumped straight to knowing how to look and pay my bills and have a job,” Ramirez Kennedy said. “I really was on a speeding track to adulthood.”
That’s why in 2008, Erin Watson stepped in and created YoungLives, to be the family young mothers needed. They gave food baskets, dish sets and cleaning supplies at this year’s Teen Mom’s Friendsgiving.
“We just have the awesome opportunity to love and encourage young moms in their journey, and just do life with them,” Watson said.
Ramirez Kennedy was 18 when she became a mother in the program, but since joining Young Lives, she’s started a career, found an apartment, and a group of people who will never leave her side.
“What it gives the most is hope. YoungLives gets people in your darkest days, like when it’s scary and you want to give up, they tell you, ‘You can do this. You are strong,'” Ramirez Kennedy said.
Watson said it’s more than the dinners or the assistance they give. Its about the community and the bonds they help to create.
“Just to meet them and love on them and just really encourage them as they are encouraging the moms and the babies at home,” Watson said. “So yeah, it’s a beautiful night to come together and just be thankful.”
Watson said each summer the organization hosts a week-long camp for young mothers, babies, and mentors. She said the goal is to come back refreshed as better moms, better friends, and better daughters.