By Jordan Dennen
“BCM is not a program to me, it’s family. Period.”
BCM parent Lea Martinez and her family have endured enormous tragedy over the past several years. Lea lost her dad in 2014 and her husband in 2016. In the midst of that, she also became the guardian for her two young grandsons. In 2017, Lea’s son Austin was in a bike accident and during treatment he experienced a loss of oxygen to his brain. Lea spent the next nine months by Austin’s side in the hospital and in rehab as he dealt with multiple surgeries, paralysis, and loss of speech. When Austin finally returned home wheelchair-bound in 2018, Lea became his full time caretaker. In 2019, Lea lost her oldest daughter, who was only 26 years old and the mother of Lea’s grandsons. In early 2020, Lea’s mother began treatment for cancer and Lea took on the responsibility of managing her appointments and care.
During these years of incredible hardship for Lea and her family, two of Lea’s six children as well as her two grandsons attended BCM. Among the four of them, they have experienced nearly all of BCM’s programs! From receiving academic support in Kidsmart and CREATE Studios, to growing spiritually and building community in Streetworkz, LiT, and Bible Club, to the Robotics teams and various summer programming, the Martinez kids have become beloved participants in all of BCM’s programs.
Lea knows that God placed BCM in her family’s life in perfect timing. She remembers years ago, before the death of her father, asking God for a new spiritual community. Sure enough, God led her to a church and to BCM, two communities that would be her lifeline through the storm that was to come. “It just blows me away when I think about how God provided for us,” Lea shared. “The relationships, and everything that BCM has been for us, I look at it and it awes me. It was absolutely ordained by God.”
Lea, who admits she is a “grizzly bear” when it comes to protecting and caring for her kids, was hesitant to trust any program with her children. It was Austin’s 3rd grade teacher, who volunteered with BCM at the time, that suggested Lea look into BCM. As skeptical as she was, Lea trusted this teacher and knew she genuinely cared for her kids. So, she decided to give BCM a chance. Lea wasn’t disappointed. “I was met with fantastic people and could see how much they really cared. They recognized my kids were special and it was an instant community.” Lea took comfort in the ways she saw BCM impacting her family. Her children and grandchildren “latched on” to BCM’s staff and volunteers and built real relationships.
"It takes really special people to see a kid hurting and not give up on them—to know that how they act isn’t coming from an awful place but from a hurt place,” Lea says.
Streetworkz and LiT staff connected with Austin and Lea’s daughter Carmella, and truly saw their unique personalities and needs. When Lea’s grandsons were old enough, they entered KidSmart and found similar support and love from the staff and volunteers there.
"The biggest thing that sticks out to me about BCM is how God’s love shows up there. In a world that so constantly changes, BCM is like a little island, a village of God’s love. It’s honestly hallowed ground. BCM is different from any other program because it’s saturated in God’s love, and that love is tangible and visible. Everybody that serves at BCM is there because of their true commitment to show Christ and love kids. That’s hard to find. You can’t fake that! How could you go wrong when you start the recipe with God’s love?"
Lea was so impressed at how deeply the adults at BCM cared for her children. “My kids would come home and tell me stories of the volunteers and staff and tell me what they liked about them. I could tell they were really connecting to these people and also that my kids were being loved for who they were. All these relationships just kept evolving and were so genuine.” Lea came to rely on the program managers to offer emotional support for her kids when things were hard, handle behavioral issues, and provide academic support. As relationships grew, several BCM staff and volunteers became like aunts and uncles to the kids. Lea found she could partner with them as she parented, and truly considers them family. She says, “I love that my kids are experiencing what it feels like to have a village around them and seeing all these people coming to BCM from different places and building relationships.”
When asked what BCM means to her, Lea couldn’t help but respond, sometimes through tears, with overwhelming gratitude.
"BCM hasn’t just impacted my kids, it’s impacted me. BCM is my extended family.
Throughout everything in my life in the past seven years, every step of the way, BCM has been a constant support. I wouldn’t have been able to weather this storm had it not been for all the ways BCM loved on my family!
Every staff person and volunteer that knew my family, and even some that didn’t, were so willing to do whatever they could to help: visiting me almost every day in the hospital, bringing meals, picking up my kids and taking them to school, financial support, sending cards and words of encouragement, and so much prayer. I felt prayed for every moment, and it was angels surrounding us. I’m crying just remembering...I get pulled right back into that time and how blessed I was. God showed so much favor in the midst of a horrendous storm. I can count the blessings that came hand in hand with that storm. This community has been an absolute abundance of support for us. It’s never failed. BCM is absolutely Godsent."