A 'bonus family' gave an Eagle his wings

October 20, 2009 8:58:47 PM PDT
Foster care in Philadelphia has been getting a boost lately from an awareness campaign called "Raise Me Up." RELATED LINK: The "Raise Me Up" website
RELATED SLIDESHOW: Foster children who need your help

The effort is getting enthusiastic support from Jeremy Maclin, one of the newest Philadelphia Eagles.

Though he wasn't a foster child himself, he knows first hand how much help one family can give a child in need.

"I don't know where I'd be today if it weren't for the people who came into my life and helped me be successful," Maclin said.

For the 21-year-old Maclin, those people were Jeff and Cindy Parres.

Jeremy met them at age 9, when he and their oldest son, Tyler, played together on the little league football team. Jeff Parres was the coach in Kirkwood, Missouri, and soon noticed Jeremy's difficulties at home.

"I was raised in a single family home. I knew my father, but he never was a part of my life," said Maclin. "I didn't grow up in the best of neighborhoods. There was violence outside in the streets that I got to see firsthand."

Gradually, the Parres' encouraged Jeremy to spend more time with their family, sleeping over, joining them on holidays and on vacations.

"They opened up their home. I was living there since I was 16 years old."

But while providing a home and a new life to Jeremy, the Parres' did not forget his mother. They also offered her support, paying her rent for a year, and never forgetting that he was her child. Cindy Parres says she's just Jeremy's "bonus mom"

"I wouldn't want to take that role from her. That's her baby. I love being a part of Jeremy's life, but she's around. She's the queen as far as I'm concerned," Cindy said.

"My mother did everything in her power that she could do," said Jeremy. "Sometimes when you're not financially stable, things can be a lot harder, especially when you got people with bright futures that just need to be in a different situation."

Jeremy found himself in a terrific situation two Sundays ago at the Linc, when he scored 2 touchdowns against Tampa Bay. It was one of the best performances ever by an Eagles rookie receiver.

At home after the game, Jeremy enjoyed a game of pool with his dad, Jeff Parres, and his best friend Isaiah, who came to Philly to see him play.

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The Parres' also played a role in Isaiah's life; Jeremy's most fierce competitor during his Little League football days, Isaiah is now a senior at Yale.

They both know what a difference even one person's help can mean in the life of someone less fortunate, and they both agree it takes teamwork:

"I understand it's not easy, but it also takes some effort on your part, too," said Jeremy. "You got to let people you know have the desire, the will power, that you want to get better in life."

The "Raise Me Up" campaign offers opportunities for just about anyone to make a contribution to a child's life. It doesn't have to mean bringing a child into your home to live with you, rather it can be the smallest monetary donation or just a little of your time to give a child encouragement.

For more information, visit the "Raise Me Up" website.


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