Cherae Pope is like a lot of 14-year-old girls. She goes to school. She likes to play softball and swim. She loves going out to eat and enjoys any time she can be the center of attention. Just like other teenagers.

Well, OK … She is different from most girls her age in one way: She plays on a hockey team.

Oh, and she also has developmental disabilities and has had some accompanying behavior challenges. But since she arrived at Damar three years ago, she’s matured and grown. In fact, she’s made such progress that she recently was honored as a Damar MVP at an Indianapolis Colts game, an honor that earned her a limo ride, recognition at the game and great seats for her and her guests, which included Damar staff members Anthony Nwokedi and Angela Rogers.

Cherae’s third guest hints at another thing that makes Cherae different from most girls her age: It was Kamala Renick, Cherae’s Cincinnati-based adoption case worker.

You see, as much as Cherae’s life looks like a lot of other girls’, there’s one big thing missing: A family. Cherae’s mother’s parental rights have been terminated, and Cherae moved to the Damar campus from Cincinnati because no facility there was meeting her needs. Since then, one of her biggest wishes has been to find her “forever family.”

Cherae has never been more ready for the affectionate family she needs and deserves. She would benefit most from a parent with no other children who has time to be with her.

Cherae has a huge heart, and she just wants to be loved. She has come such a long way from the scared, unpredictable girl that first arrived at Damar. Staff describe her as outgoing, friendly, and always willing to help the people around her.

Damar has helped Cherae find what was there all along – her inner strength. Although the majority of her circumstances have been outside her control, she’s moving forward with what she can change. She has learned to accept responsibility for her actions and has been patiently working on new skills every day.

Certainly, Cherae’s story has brought unique challenges. Moving forward, there will be complexities. But there will also be successes and celebrations, and countless times when she is a delight, a joy and a source of pride. Just like every other kid.

Summer Noren

About the Author

Summer Noren

Qualified Developmental Disability Professional

As a Qualified Developmental Disability Professional, Summer Noren is a case manager for a portion of the students Damar serves. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Ball State University in psychology with a minor in social work and counseling psychology.