With less than one week away from our big Mother’s Day trip, I thought it would be important to reflect on how Get On The Bus got started. Eleven years ago, Sr. Suzanne Jabro was leading a delegation of women who wanted to do something for the women at the Chowchilla prisons, which house 8,000 women including a death row for women. She and others recognized that women don’t receive many visits so they figured that they would all go in and regularly visit the women. When she posed the idea to the women, their response was, “Why would we want to visit with strangers when we never see our children?”
Shocked, Suzanne asked each woman how long it had been since they last saw their children. As each person went around the room, it was the same story. Given cost, distance, mobility of their elderly parents who were taking care of their children, the women hadn’t seen their kids between 4 and 9 years. At this point, Suzanne knew that the original plan was out and that she must find a way to bring the children.
So in 1999, Get On The Bus was born. That very year at Valley State Prison for Women a bus arrived from Los Angeles carrying 9 families and 17 children. They all hadn’t seen their mothers in at least 4 years. Suzanne often reflects about the depth of the emotions displayed during that visit. Not only was their no dry eye in the room, but the women and the children were inseparable. When the young children entered the visiting room, they ran and just clung onto their moms. When the withdrawn teens came in, their shields began to fall. When the day closed and the kids got back on the bus, they were given a teddy bear from their mother. To Suzanne’s great surprise, even the teenagers were hugging their bears on the way home.
Suzanne started by trying to help the women, but in reality she saw what a difference this had made for the children. She often talks about the loss the children have experienced and how you can see it in their eyes on the way to and from the prison. She also talks about the joy that the kids experience being able to be united with their mom. Just being able to hold their mother, touch her, and talk to her is really all the children need. They also get a sense that their mother is safe and this is incredibly important to their own wellbeing.
After that first year, one of the original mothers who participated in the program got out of prison. She was so moved by what GOTB had done for her and her daughter, who she had not previously seen for 9 years, that she contacted our organization. She told us that she had just landed a minimum wage paying job and although she needed the money, she felt that she had to share it with a program that gave her back her daughter. For one year, she donated 10% of her monthly salary to GOTB to help other children unite with their mothers. I am proud to say that this daughter is all grown up and is in the Army happily married with her own children and her mother is doing very well and still keeps in touch.
Every time I think of this story, I am moved to tears. It always impresses me that someone with so little had given so much. I would invite all of you who are looking for a good gift for your own mother to consider giving a gift to a child so they can be united with their own mother. For a $25 dollar donation, we will send a beautiful card for Mother’s Day to the special woman of your choice. Please see https://www.getonthebus.us/tribute-donations.php for more details.
I want to thank Pasquale Vericella for throwing a lovely fundraiser this past Monday at his awesome Beverly Hills Restaurant Il Cielo. The food was absolutely incredible and your hospitality was amazing. Thank you!! I want to say good luck to some of the most special people in my life who will be participating in the Pittsburgh Marathon/ Half Marathon. Jess, girl you got me addicted to this sport. I don’t know if I should say thanks or I should be swearing at you for it. You have not only been a great running mentor to me, but you have also been a great friend and I wish you luck tomorrow. Kelly, you are more than a sister, you are a friend. I know that you are going to rock the half. I am just sad that I am not running it with you. Jenee, I love you cousin! You are going to do amazing. Great luck to you and if I am not mistaken, this is your first one? Rock it ladies!!!