She struggled, but now just wants to offer others a smile

Editor's note: Light One Candle is an annual series sponsored by the Mail Tribune that focuses on an individual, group or agency that could use a helping hand during the holiday season. Once that need is filled, donations may be distributed to others in need. The series continues daily until Wednesday, Dec. 22.

Linda was removed from her home when she was only 20 months old. This young woman lived in 13 different foster homes. She survived thanks to her drive, the love of her final foster family and the fact that she had a CASA, a court-appointed advocate, for 16 years until she aged out of the child-welfare system.

Linda talks straightforwardly about her life — about her mother's mental illness, about being locked in her bedroom and screaming so long and hard she tore her vocal cord.

Moving from foster home to foster home, Linda says her clothes always smelled of plastic trash bags because she never had any luggage.

She also talks about the foster parents she still considers to be her true parents. This family nurtured her and helped her believe she could succeed in spite of her circumstances. She also speaks about having a CASA by her side since she was 2 years old.

Linda made it through school and is anticipating her graduation from Southern Oregon University in spring of 2011 with a bachelor's degree in communications.

Linda and her fiance recently became certified foster parents and plan to have a child placed in their care soon. Linda says she wants to give back to kids who are suffering like she did.

Linda has overcome huge obstacles in her life. The one thing Linda wants for Christmas is the one thing most people take for granted — a smile.

Linda needs a significant amount of dental work done which she has not been able to afford since she grew too old to be in the foster care system.

"This beautiful young lady deserves to have a beautiful smile," said Lisa Smith, program manager for CASA of Jackson County.

If you can help, please make a donation to CASA on behalf of Linda and Light One Candle. The CASA office is at 613 Market St., Medford, OR 97504. Or call 541-734-2272.

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