Eckerd Kids’ Friends of the Children program becomes first to only work with foster care kids

For over 20 years, Eckerd Kids has been helping at-risk youth in the Tampa community.

Their Friends of the Children program provides these youths with a professional mentor to work with them through life. The mentors begin their work with the students when they are in kindergarten or first grade, and they remain with the students through to their high school graduation.

“I love the role I’m working in now,”said Justin Goldsmith, one of Eckerd’s professional mentors. “I wake up every morning and I thank God for putting me in this predicament to help the youth.”

Friends of the Children is the first program to work exclusively with kids in the foster care system. Many of the students that are chosen for this program are considered the most vulnerable students in their area.

“When I was 4, I didn’t have any friends. I was all by myself,” said Kaden Figueras, 7, a student in the Eckerd program for two years. “Now I’m being a leader and having fun.”

The program has nine mentors working with over 60 students across Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough counties.

“I just want to let the youth know that they can be leaders, or they can be whatever they want to in life,”Goldsmith said.