Volunteers from Teenagers, Inc., in Chestnut Hill are seen last year at a tour of Schell Center, an educational center for high school students operated by God’s Child Project, which distributes clothes, shoes, even school supplies, to impoverished families in Guatemala.

by Andrew Garoppo

This is the story of a girl who lived in Roxborough, who had two adoptive parents, Daune and Phillip Ring, and a sister, Madison, who loved her, who lived the American Dream on paper, but in her heart of hearts, Chloe was still a stranger in a strange land.

Chloe was originally from Guatemala City, capital of the impoverished Central American country of Guatemala. Her birth family loved her too much to let their fruit wither on the vine in the poor country in which their first two children had died, so when she was a mere four months of age, they sent her over 2000 miles away to the U.S. to a loving family that could give her opportunities she could only dream of in Guatemala. (At the time of Chloe’s adoption, there was a catastrophic civil war raging in Guatemala, so there were many war orphans.)

In America she had her own troubles, though, as she dealt with a learning disability and a feeling of separation from a society she was not quite a part of. Though Chloe’s family was close, her adoptive parents got divorced, and this only further deepened the feeling of isolation. When Chloe was four years old, she told her adoptive mom, “You are my family, but my people are in Guatemala.”

Things looked up when she went to a boarding school in Montana, where she got to work with animals, a passion which sparked her desire to become a vet technician. While Chloe was in Montana, she befriended a horse named Iris who had very similar issues and would let only Chloe ride her. A very special bond formed that helped them both heal emotionally.

“She was born with a deep compassion for animals, particularly the sick, wounded and abandoned,” her family said. In a lonely, sick animal in need Chloe saw herself, a baby born to a hopeless situation. By her family’s example, Chloe learned to care for those in need that none others would care for. Love is something that has no border, which knows no time zone. Chloe felt like she belonged when she attended New Hope Academy in Bucks County, but sadly, tragedy struck, and she was diagnosed with terminal cancer at the age of 16.

Though this was a great heartbreak, her family, as they had always done, gave her all the love she needed. The cancer appeared to be defeated, but it returned last August. Chloe fought to the end but died at the age of 18 on Dec. 29, 2012, at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. She had been attending classes at Camden County Community College in hopes of becoming a veterinarian’s assistant. Chloe’s keen sense and heightened awareness was shown in the following poem called “My Journey,” which she wrote years before being diagnosed with cancer:

Chloe befriended this horse named Iris when she was attending a boarding school in Montana. Iris would not let anyone ride her but Chloe.

“I come from Guatemalan roots,

And if you were to walk in my boots

And pick from the trees, the fruits,

You would see that it’s been a difficult route.

I came to Philadelphia by plane,

And while I have a lot to gain,

My life has not been the same,

But earning my wings is the aim.”

Next month Chloe’s sister, Madison, and a group of kids from Teenagers, Inc. of Chestnut Hill are traveling to Guatemala to help the people who need it most. As Chloe said, “There are those in need who no one cares for.” Madison, who will be a chaperone on the trip, has raised about $4,000 on her own, which she will donate to God’s Child Project, which distributes clothes, shoes, even school supplies, to impoverished families in Guatemala.

We are taking down Chloe’s belongings and her treasured stuffed animals, so that a part of her can be home, and she can be at peace. Our local community has made this trip possible year after year. Help us take down Chloe’s clothes and much needed supplies by “Adopting a Suitcase for $40” at teensincphilly.org, or mail to Teenagers, Inc., 105 Bethlehem Pike, Phila., PA 19118.

Andrew Garoppo, a member of Teens, Inc., is a student at LaSalle High School.