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BRAD ROBICHAUX — ‘Tragedy to Triumph’ something to admire

Forget about the normal life — what really matters is the happy one.

That seems to be what the girls living at Girls’ Haven in Port Neches have. The Port Arthur News story over the weekend described some the characteristics of what one might expect of a normal life — girl talk, music, laughter — that the residents of Girls’ Haven demonstrate, but some of the other things these girls have gone through is far from what you’d expect of a normal girl’s life.

“Basically abuse, neglect, homelessness, severe dysfunction,” Kaylee Dickens, development and public relations coordinator at Girls’ Haven, told The News.

Girls’ Haven exists to give those girls who experience these thankfully rare (but not rare enough) tragedies the safe, comfortable space needed to be able to laugh again. There are 24 of them there: 20 are 18 years old or under, with the youngest 11 years old, and four 22 and under going through the supervised independent living program. They frequently come to Girls’ Haven through the foster system or the juvenile justice system, and because older children are less likely to be adopted, many tend to stay until they are 18.

These girls may have tragic pasts, but they have what looks like a safer, happier present.

And this means a lot to me.

I’ll admit, as you might expect, my experience of what it’s like to grow up as a girl is quite limited. What mattered in discussions among my circle of friends was probably quite different than those among these girls, so my connection to them and their experiences is, needless to say, a bit tenuous.

And yet reading this story still touched a nerve, because it made me think of my niece.

She started second grade a few weeks ago when the school year began. She started soccer this year too — she told me her team is called the Candy Crushers (and I later learned that she was the one that originally pitched “Crushers” as the team name). From what I’ve heard, she tends to spend more time at the water cooler and giving hugs to her friends than kicking around the soccer ball at practice, but she’s proud of her team and thoroughly enjoys the sport.

Thanks in no small part to the nurturing of my sister and brother-in-law, my niece is enjoying life in the bright-eyed, exuberant manner only a young girl might, and it’s a tremendous source of brightness in my own life when she tells me all about her escapades. I cannot imagine her going through life otherwise.

And yet, I have to acknowledge that some do.

Despite this, it makes me feel relieved to know that there are places that strive to turn “Tragedy into Triumph,” and that, even though they may not have the same kind of life as my niece does, the girls at Girls’ Haven have the potential to find for themselves a happy life.

I’m sure the laughter at Girls’ Haven is just as much a source of brightness.

To donate, participate in a fundraiser or become a mentor, go to girlshaveninc.org.

Brad Robichaux is a reporter for The Port Arthur News. He can be reached at brad.robichaux@panews.com