The path to ruin can resemble a vicious cycle. Innocent children born into circumstances surrounded by poverty, abuse, alcohol, and drugs so often become entangled as young adults with the very things that caused them so much pain.
Davon Woods is an incredible young man who is trying to break this cycle for as many kids as he can — a cycle he knows all too well.
Davon was dealt a bad hand from the very beginning. Born weighing just two pounds with his twin brother Tavon and crack cocaine in his system, he was taken by the Department of Human Services and put into the foster care system.
“My mom never went to the hospital, so she didn’t even know she was having twins,” says Davon. “And when they were about to close her up, they found Tavon stuck behind her rib cage.”
At the age of two, he and his brother were taken out foster care and formally adopted. For many “crack babies” with similar stories, this is the best possible outcome to their situation.
This is where, against all odds, these kids can have a normal, loving childhood. For Davon, though, this could not be further from the case.
“Once a child gets adopted, some people think that it’s all sunshine and rainbows,” says Davon.
“In our case, it was the complete opposite. We felt like we were slaves. We were never told we were loved, we never had a voice, and up until we were 17 we didn’t even know who we were or where we came from. Growing up, we were like, ‘I don’t know who I am as a person.’ That’s a lot to deal with at a young age.”
This confusion and pain led him down a path of smoking and alcohol at the age of 11. Not long after, he was selling drugs.
“It was a way of running away and coping with things,” he says. “We thought the urge to do these things was normal.”
At the age of 21, however, something in Davon changed. He woke up and decided to change has path.
“I realized all these things were just a temporary fix, like fixing a flat tire. You can put the spare on, but at some point, you have to fix the problem.”
After moving to Georgia and getting involved in his church, Davon realized what was missing from his life.
What he really wanted wasn’t alcohol or cigarettes. What he really wanted and needed, he realized, was love, and he wanted to dedicate his life to giving that love to other kids that were just like him.
In May, that dedication led him and his brother to walk 176 miles from Atlanta, GA to Jacksonville, FL to raise donations for Foster Kids Matter as part of National Foster Care Month.
To do so, he walked away from a lucrative job he had as a car salesman.
“I was working at Toyota making good money,” said Davon. “I was making more than I ever made in my life, but the more I would think about the good life I was leading, the more I would think, ‘There’s a child suffering.’ I would see news stories about kids dying in the foster care system, and I’d be so overwhelmed I couldn’t focus at work. I couldn’t shake it. Deep down I knew I had a passion for this, for kids in the system, so I just had to make the sacrifice.”
The support was overwhelming, and today their walks have inspired a movement that Davon hopes will soon reach all 50 states.
With the donations raised, he plans to build through his organization Foster Kids Matter a transition home for children coming into the foster system, as well as a facility to help the over 400,000 children currently in the foster system.
The real dream, however, is to use his and others’ stories to bring foster children to the forefront of the national discussion — and through awareness change the foster system, as well as the perception of foster care, for the better.
“This is something that should be talked about,” says Davon. “The NFL, the NBA, every major sporting event should be using their platform to raise awareness for the kids in foster care, but right now they just don’t have the information to talk about it. We use these walks to teach people about this issue and show them what some kids have to go through — what we had to go through — so we can make a better system for these kids.”
Davon also hopes that his walks inspire more loving families to accept foster children into their lives, especially those who come from bad circumstances.
“Some families, when they consider adoption, they want to look for the perfect kid,” he says. “To be honest, though, none of us are perfect, and these kids, they’re broken. These kids just need a family who’s not going to give up on them. Someone who will give them attention and love. That’s all they really want.”