Lola Rahn and her husband, Ryan, have been foster parents for more than 31 years. They’ve had over 60 foster children in their home and adopted two of their five children from foster care. “Foster care has been a big part of our lives,” said Lola, “and it always will be.”
After losing their 19-year-old son Jordan to cardiomyopathy, Lola and her family established the Jordan Rahn Forever Young Run memorial fundraiser to support the American Heart Association. The support from the local community was extraordinary.
In the second year, the Rahn family wanted to honor Jordan by supporting a cause that was close to his heart. Being a foster big brother brought Jordan so much joy, so they all agreed to begin supporting foster care organizations. As the race continued to grow, Lola was inspired to do even more for the local foster care community. Proceeds from the 2016 event were used to launch Foster Hope, and they began hosting support groups for foster parents.
In April 2017, Foster Hope became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in Atkinson, Illinois. Their mission to support their local foster care community is simple, but their impact is immeasurable. The organization serves hundreds of children and parents in four Illinois counties each year.
While the organization began with six foster parents in one room in the former Atkinson Grade School building, it quickly expanded to six rooms filled with diapers, clothing, infant equipment, and other essential items for raising children. The school also serves as the primary location for foster parent training classes, support group meetings, and appreciation events. “There is no idea too big,” said Lola. “If I can dream it, God has always found a way to provide it.”
Foster Hope relies on community support and assistance from more than 50 volunteers annually. “We are a 100% volunteer-operated organization,” said Lola. “The growth of Foster Hope would not be possible without the help from our volunteers and my right-hand partner, Katie VanAntwerp.”
In 2019, Lola received a Nation of Neighbors℠ empowerment award and grant. “The recognition and grant catapulted Foster Hope to the next level,” said Lola. “We purchased a minivan to transport large furniture and equipment, filled our shelves with needed supplies, started construction on our website, and opened our second location in Geneseo, Illinois.”
The Geneseo location is used primarily for household items to help teens transitioning from foster care to independent living or college. “We have four rooms packed with furniture and everything you need to move into a new place,” said Lola.
Foster Hope hosts three annual appreciation events to celebrate and give back to foster families. Among these is the Shopping for Siblings event that occurs every December. Donations pour in from local organizations and community members to make it possible for more than 110 foster children to shop for toys for their brothers and sisters. “My children loved selecting gifts for their siblings when they were young,” said Lola. “It was so important to me to give foster children the same opportunity and allow them to experience the value of giving.”
Because of Lola’s dedication and infectious spirit, the community has wrapped its arms around foster families in a meaningful way. Foster Hope receives support from many local organizations, schools, and churches, such as monetary donations, collecting needed items, and volunteering for events. “You don’t have to be a foster family; everyone can help,” said Lola.
The Jordan Rahn Forever Young Run will celebrate its ninth year this August. It continues to serve as Foster Hope’s only fundraiser. “The Lord has always provided for us,” said Lola. “I give all the glory to God.”