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12 Who Care 2007: Maryellen and Ray Storms

1:49 PM, Jul 18, 2007   |    comments
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By Patricia Crosby First Coast News JACKSONVILLE,FL -- Maryellen and Ray Storms aren't like many other retirees. Instead of enjoying their golden years vacationing, they are busy helping 140 young men on the First Coast start new lives in America. "They are our God, mama, and papa and we appreciate them," says Peter Mabior. Peter is just one of the Lost Boys of Sudan who now feel like they are part of Maryellen and Ray’s big family. The Storms met some of the boys at their church a few years ago and say they fell in love with them. "They are precious, they are like my kids," says Ray. Peter and his cousins, Abraham Kwany and John Kot, are all survivors of a civil war in their native Sudan. They still get emotional remembering what it was like fleeing their villages and their families in the south when the Khartoun from the north attacked. John was only three years old. "I was crying a lot, and my brother had to carry me. I kept saying I can't make it. I was so tired that's what I remember," says John. In the late 1980's, some 26,000 boys walked for about two months from Sudan to Ethiopia. Many of them died from starvation or lion attacks during this thousand mile journey. They found refuge in Ethiopia until fighting broke out there and they were once again on the run. They fled to Kenya and across the Gilo River. Many couldn't swim. Peter, John and Abraham saw friends and family members drown and get eaten by crocodiles. The Storms were so touched by their stories of survival they wanted to do all they could for them. "I've always thought if my son were in a similar situation, I would hope that someone would be there to help him," says Maryellen. Ray is a retired teacher and Maryellen is a retired secretary. They now use their training to help the boys with pretty much everything they need. Ray helps them with their papers for school and Maryellen types them up. "They helped me a lot and, when someone helps you with your education, it’s like they are giving you the key to your life," says John. Ray and Maryellen have helped most of the boys get their GED's and some are going to college now. But the Storm’s work goes beyond education. "Everything from turning on a light switch, to getting a driver's license, to buying a car, everything," says Ray. Ray and Maryellen don't count how much time they spend helping the "Lost Boys," they now call family. They are just glad they can help. "When you consider they went to bed each night not knowing if they would be alive the next day," Ray says with a tear. For their dedication to "The Lost Boys of Sudan" the Storms are recognized as one of our 12 Who Care. If you'd like to learn more about how to help the "Lost Boys of Sudan" just contact the Alliance for the Lost Boys of Sudan.

First Coast News

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