Former Amarillo plastic surgeon Dr. Rouzbeh Kordestani is normally focused on the exterior of a person. But on Saturday he was helping with the internal well-being of 100 Texas Panhandle children.
Kordestani partnered with Karie Mueller of Gold’s Gym and Laser Me Smooth to buy 100 pairs of shoes for foster children in the Texas Panhandle with the aim of boosting their self-esteem along with their second-semester wardrobe.
“He’s all about helping,” said Trent Butcher, president of the Greater Amarillo Foster Parent Association.
Kordestani, who said he retired in April, has been supporting the GAFPA for the last 10 years, partnering with different community businesses to buy Christmas presents for area foster children — and all without even meeting Butcher in person.
“It’s such a big blessing, that it’s hard to even understand it. It still boggles me today that Dr. Kordestani (said), ‘I don’t need to meet you, I just want to help,’” Butcher said. “That’s so mind-boggling to me because when somebody gives it always seems like it comes with strings attached … but with him and the people he’s teamed up with … they’ve just been non-stop — let’s just give, let’s just help.”
This year the foster parent association received a $10,000 grant, which Butcher said they used to buy the Christmas presents Kordestani and friends have purchased over the years. So, when Kordestani called to offer his support, Butcher proposed duplicating an experience they gave the kids two years ago.
“I was told … it meant more to the kids and the foster parents to actually get the shoes than a lot of the Christmas presents. And the reason for that is … a lot of kids identify themselves by their shoes, their clothes and their X Box,” Butcher said. “With this gift, they can go to school with a brand new pair of high-dollar shoes … that’s how kids identify themselves and that’s how they build their self-esteem.
“We’ve hit the nail on the head with this gift because these kids are going to wear those shoes proudly … and I know these kids will feel better about themselves because we’ve met that identity for them and that is priceless.”
Kordestani, along with Dr. Richard Bechtol, had a long established history of flying to Africa to support people in need of medical attention and basic necessities. Kordestani said he never thought of buying shoes for American kids like he and his partner have done for children in Africa.
“I’m really good at getting on a plane and going off to Africa and taking care of other people’s kids and there’s a whole bunch of Amarillo kids that nobody has attended to,” Kordestani said.
“You get tunnel vision … we do this for kids in Africa all of the time … but you think in America, kids have this kind of stuff. These (foster) kids think of this as a bigger deal than getting toys because they get to show off their new shoes to their classmates on the first day of school.
“The kids will get to pick the shoes they like as opposed to an anonymous Santa who will probably pick the wrong shoes, the wrong size, the wrong color. They get to be hands on so they’ll get what they want.”
Though she is currently fostering a 1-year-old girl, Celisa Woodward knows how important this opportunity is for foster families. She has fostered eight children in the year and a half she has opened her home to foster children.
“It’s kind of hard to put into words what this means to us. It really means a lot, especially during this time of year, that we have such a loving community that comes together to not only help our children but to support our foster families as well,” Woodward said. “So often we feel like we’re outsiders because we don’t have a lot of foster families here (in the Texas Panhandle) so when we have people in the community that step up and show love, it really means a lot.”
Butcher calls the association, which currently supports about 30 families — totaling 100 kids from all over the area — a one-stop shop for foster families.
“People don’t understand us, people don’t understand the foster care system, people don’t understand foster parents or even foster kids,” Butcher said. “We provide that like-mindedness, people can come to us and ask questions … we provide answers, support and monthly training…behavior based, psychotropic medicine based, trauma based (and) connection based.”
Butcher said they want to expand their supportive services and educational training beyond just foster parents and into the community.
“Anybody who has a kid goes through the same situations and scenarios,” he said. “If we can educate you on how to better service your own children, more than likely, they will never be removed from your home.
“We don’t want to see any more kids coming into care … but unfortunately, that’s what’s happening. We have so many kids coming into care that 25 percent of them are leaving the panhandle and going throughout Texas because we can’t meet the demand.”
Butcher, who has served in his current position since September and has been on the GAFPA board for five years, is a foster parent with his wife. The pair have opened their hearts and home to 41 children over the last eight years.