December 14, 2007
By Brittany Frega, Alpharetta, GA

On a cold winter night, the police found four young children in a home all alone.
The children were dirty, hungry and cold. A five year old Ashley with matted hair and smelly clothes hovered in the corner, scared to look the officer in the eye. After searching for near by relatives, three of the children were taken to the grandparents. Because of the bruises on Ashley and the fact she would not speak she was taken to the hospital. No one knew what Ashley had been thru and it did not help that she would not utter a word. Through the pictures she drew for the therapist you could tell Ashley had been physically and mentally abused. As Ashley, began to come out of her shell and speak to others it was obvious that she was a very angry child. She began to have tantrums and nightmares. After several months in the hospital, Ashley was taken to a group home for young children with special needs.

In the group home, Ashley would lash out at the other children. She would do things she knew was wrong so that no one would like her. She trusted no one. Unfortunately, because of her behavioral problems the staff began to medicate Ashley. She was put on anti-psychotic, bipolar and sleeping medications. Over time, Ashley no longer had angry or sleep issues. The medication was given in large doses and she became like a walking zombie. She had become indifferent to the others around her. At this time, Ashley was a beautiful six year old with long blonde hair and the face of a china doll.

In the fall, Ashley attended a school that had a special needs program. Inside she was scared but she told no one. She acted mean and said vulgar things hoping they would just leave her alone. Her teacher, Mrs. Matol would not give up on Ashley. Each day she encouraged and worked with her even though Ashley hid behind her wall of anger. After six months of school Ashley did not progress academically. She was still full of anger and hate.

Christmas was in a few weeks and Mrs. Matol hated the fact that Ashley had no family and would spend the holidays in the group home. Mrs. Matol contacted Social Services and fought to get Ashley for Christmas. Social Services said the paper work and the home inspection could not be completed in time. Mrs. Matol was a fighter and would not take no for an answer. Mrs. Matol hired a lawyer to help her get Ashley for the holidays. With the added pressure from the legal system, everything was completed in time. Ashley could not believe someone even cared where she spent Christmas.

Walking into Mrs. Matol’s house seemed weird. All Ashley really knew was the group home. There was a fire going, a beautiful Christmas tree and fancy furniture. She even got to have her own bedroom and bath. When Ashley plopped herself on the bed she thought she was dreaming. That night was Christmas Eve and they sat down to a turkey dinner and all the trimmings. Ashley ate till she could not eat anymore. The next morning Ashley was stunned by all the presents. Many of them were for her. She continued to think she was dreaming – this was too good to be true. Ashley got some new clothes, a pair of tennis shoes and a doll. It had been so long since Ashley had worn anything new. As Ashley looked around at the Matol Family opening gifts she began to soften. This was the best day of her life.

Christmas night, Mrs. Matol made a huge dinner and invited many friends and neighbors.
Ashley felt insecure not knowing all these people but she loved having on her new clothes. Also, her pretty, long blonde hair had been braided for the party. Ashley felt like a princess. At the party she met the Chesnut family. Ashley loved their daughter Megan.
They were the same age and had a great time playing with Ashley’s new doll.
When the Chesnut family saw Ashley they were heart broken because she did not have a real home.

After Christmas, Ashley went back to the group home and the Chesnut’s continued to think about her. The Chesnut’s lived in a large home with only one child, Megan.
They could not get Ashley out of their mind. After a lot of thought and prayer, the Chesnut’s decided to adopt Ashley. They had to go thru the legal process which took several months. Ashley had heard someone wanted to adopt her but she would not let her heart be broken. She did not believe anyone really cared.

In the spring, Mrs. Matol told Ashley she had wonderful news. She would be going that afternoon to live with the Chesnut’s. Ashley did not know what to believe, she thought this is too good to be true. After school, the Chesnut’s, social services and Mrs. Matol met with Ashley. The Chesnut’s asked Ashley if she would like to live with them. Ashley was silent for a minute taking it all in and she shouted with joy – YES!

When Ashley arrived at the Chesnut’s home, she was in disbelief. There were dogs and cats and even horses at the home. She had a beautiful bedroom and she loved playing with Megan. Ashley was so grateful and began to call Mr. and Mrs. Chesnut, Mom and Dad. The transition went well and Ashley grew up being known as Ashley Chesnut.

Ashley knew she was blessed and very grateful to Mrs. Matol who always believed in her. After Ashley graduated from high school, she went on to college to become a teacher. Ashley always had a special heart for those children who were in need.

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