On July 11, 2007 friend of GROWTH Foundation, Michael R. Rodriguez died from a broken heart and a drug overdose. Mike was big brother to the kids of GROWTH and his significant impact on their personal lives cannot be overstated. Having survived a horrendously abusive childhood, Mike’s dream was to work with youth who suffered from similar childhood trauma. Through GROWTH Mike had an opportunity to make his dream come true.
There wasn’t anything Mike wouldn’t do to help. He listened, counseled, drove the kids from school or work, studied, ushered them to 12-step meetings, kept them off the streets and away from gangs, gardened and volunteered in the community, organized field trips to museums and art galleries. If Mike noticed someone liked Spongebob, then he’d show up the next week with a Spongebob skateboard. If he noticed someone liked animals, then he’d plan a trip to the zoo or to the shelter.
Mike’s big heart touched GROWTH on an organizational level as well. Mike kept GROWTH going in 2006 with a generous donation after he won a $100,000 scratch-off lottery ticket. His 37 years on this planet seem too short indeed, however, Mike leaves a legacy of love and compassion, which can be witnessed through the courageous triumphs of these kids, who so specially bonded with him.
Mike was writing a book titled Children of War with the purpose of helping youth heal the pain of childhood abuse, and avoid the pitfalls of drugs, jails and the streets, that he so fiercely battled for years. Mike was dedicated to helping kids find hope. After Mike’s death, GROWTH Founder Deana Ruggieri and Board Vice-President Tom Nelson took up Mike’s pen and wrote Children of War: The Mike Rodriguez Story. In December 2013, Mike’s story was published. The book provides a platform through which victims of child abuse and drug addiction can tell their stories to facilitate healing.
A portion of each sale of Children of War: The Mike Rodriguez Story is dedicated to a scholarship in his name to help youth achieve their personal and educational goals. Please visit http://www.childrenofwarbook.com.