Tori Peterson never had a home to call her own through the crucial years of her life.
After entering foster care permanently when she was 12 she lived in 12 different homes until she was 18 years old.
“When I turned fifteen, I started to hear people’s concerns about me not graduating high school, not being able to obtain steady employment, and the possibility of me becoming pregnant or incarcerated by the time I turned eighteen,” she said.
“I challenged myself to not become a statistic, but I was fearful I was bound for detrimental statistics regardless, until someone assured me, I didn’t have to be.”
Tori had very few stable adults in her life but thankfully her caseworkers kept her in the same school district which meant she was able to stay at the same school for 3 years.
“The stability was crucial, because it introduced me and kept me close to the man who changed my life, Scott.”
Scott was her track coach when Tori was 15 years old who not only believed in her but forgave all her “fits and frustrations” amplified in a teenager who doesn’t have a stable home.
For Tori running was an escape from the isolation of her foster home and she excelled.
Then during one practice Scott casually said: “‘I think you can win state.’ Then he paused and took in a deep breath. ‘If you do what I say,’” Tori said.
For a year Tori did everything her coach told her do and turned up to every practice even when nobody else did.
At 18 years old Tori aged out of the foster care system and found herself homeless sleeping on different people’s couches to keep a roof over her head.
She had to rely on others to drive her to practice and then Scott would drive her to wherever she had found to sleep that night.
“During one of our drives, Scott offered me a forever home. He said he asked his daughters, and they said they would love for me to be a part of their family. ‘You can come back for holidays. You’ll always have a home with us.’ I felt on top of the world.”
Just weeks later Tori found herself winning first place at the state championship not once but four times. She represented her school as the 50th girl in Ohio to win four state titles in one meet.
“I became the first individual woman and the first person of color to win a state championship title from my high school,” she said.
College scholarship offers flooded her inbox and she finally settled on a college which offered her a full track and academic scholarship.
“In high schools I had no idea who I would spend Christmases with, but for every holiday, I came back home. Ever since, Scott has included me in his holiday celebrations, hanging a stocking up for me that matches his daughters and buying me meaningful gifts. Scott’s daughters, Madison and Emma, claim me and I claim them as sisters.”
Tori is now part of the family and shares Scott and his daughter’s last name. She went onto become a Division 2 All-American track athlete on a 4×400 relay.
In 2018, she became one of the 3 percent of foster youth to graduate with a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Just one week after her college graduation, Scott walked her down the aisle to give her away to her husband.
“It takes one person whispering, ‘You are able and worthy,’ even when a million say and the evidence shows, ‘No, you can’t.’
“We don’t ever stop needing guidance and help. Adoption isn’t just for babies and steady commitment isn’t just for kids. It’s for the older youth and it’s even or adults.”
Tori’s story serves as an important reminder how we as adults can change a child’s life even if we’re not related to them. There are so many teens that age out of the foster care system and become homeless, it’s heartbreaking.
Help us pay tribute to big-hearted Scott and wish Tori a future of love, happiness, and security by sharing this story.