TYLER (KYTX) – A former foster girl from Texas has chosen not to be defined by her past but, instead, is defining her future by taking advantage of every chance she gets. Cassidy Mack is now making a name for herself after spending six tough years in foster care.
"I thought the older I got the less my chances are of being adopted and I was very scared of that," said Cassidy.
As her wait for a forever family continued, Cassidy began to put up a wall so the hurt wouldn't go deeper.
"As a child in foster care, you learn to trust no one and to protect yourself, which is what I had to do. I learned how to be pretty tough and form a protective shell around myself. This made me look like damaged goods, but inside I was just this little girl who wanted to feel loved and accepted. I wanted to belong somewhere."
Her wish would soon come true at 6-years-old. "I didn't know there was actually a family out there looking for me and when I found that out I was like oh I'm going to get adopted! I'm so excited!"
Cassidy is the second daughter adopted by the Mack family. They also have two biological daughters.
"I feel like it is a privilege to give a kid a better life," said Mike Mack, Cassidy's dad. "Nothing is more rewarding than that to me."
Her mom, Jenn, added, "Building your family through adoption is an amazing experience. Adopting older children from foster care is a blessing. As a Mom, I can honestly say, there is no difference in the love that I have for any of my girls, whether they came to me biologically or through adoption."
Jenn and Mike gave Cassidy the chance she'd been waiting for. Speaking about her new parents Cassidy said, "He's my hero and she's my best friend. They are the most loving people I've ever met."
Her forever family helped her find her passion and purpose in life, which turned out to be acting.
"When I started to do acting and audition for films and television it was amazing. I really saw that I had a gift and I didn't know."
She has now starred in several movies, commercials and a just released video from Disney's "Make Your Mark" which spreads the word about adoption. In the video she said, "In foster care, I thought if I ever get out of here I want to give back."
Now, at just 14-years-old, she is giving back after starting her own foundation called Love Gives Chances.
"It's about empowering the foster youth and encouraging adults to adopt from the foster care system," explained Cassidy.
She designed two pendants; one is called the Survivor Pendant which she sends to foster children giving them hope. The Supporter Pendant raises funds to help foster children reach their dreams.
Cassidy said, "With the money from the foundation, I put that money into scholarships whether kids like acting, singing, dancing art, whatever they like those scholarships can take them to camps for their exact dreams and passions whatever their purpose is."
This former foster child is now making a difference as an advocate for adoption.
"Oh I'm so proud of her everyday," said Jenn. "Yesterday I was with her in Washington, DC where she was speaking on Capital Hill for the second time in two months. Last month she received a huge award by the National Congressional Coalition on Adoption called Angels in Adoption. I told her this doesn't happen to 14-year-olds. I'm just extremely proud of her and every time I see her speak and share her message it reiterates to me that she's exactly where she's supposed to be."
She was invited to share her story at the Smith County National Adoption Day in November. She told the foster children being adopted that day, "Like all of you, I am a survivor. I am a survivor of my own journey through the foster care system. My birth mom was too sick to take care of me. I never knew my birth dad, and I lost a sister to the system as well. God did answer my prayers. A wonderful family did come along to adopt me."
This budding actress took time for pictures, autographs, but most of all shared inspiration. Just before a young girl was adopted, Cassidy gave her one of her Survivor Pendants bringing the girl to tears.
Cassidy Mack is a young rising star, already shining light on the dark issue of children in foster care and bringing hope when there seems to be none.
"I want to show parents and adults this is what a child from foster care can make for herself, in that she can do some pretty awesome stuff all you have to do is give her a chance."
A chance, that starts with love!
if you would like more information on Cassidy's Love Gives Chances foundation, click here.
Cassidy's latest movie is coming out soon titled Zoey to the Max. It's about a foster child who gets adopted. She said it was an easy character to play because she just had to be herself.