Today we’d like to introduce you to Gia Tutalo-Mote.
So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
My eyes were opened to the plight of kids in foster care about 24 years ago. I was just out of journalism school and living in Boca Raton when I was asked by my condo association to write an editorial opposing a shelter for abused and abandoned kids that was opening across the street. Of course, I never wrote that letter. Instead, I became a volunteer at the shelter and never looked back. Once you’re in, you’re in. It’s impossible to turn away. I will never forget the first children I met. I still remember their faces and names all these years later. They yearned for love and attention, attaching themselves to my legs…”don’t leave,” they’d say, “read me a book”, “play a game”… and, “will you adopt me”? What a blow to the heart. This was America. These were kids no one wanted. Kids so desperate, they would ask a stranger to adopt them.
Soon after, while earning a Masters degree at the University of Miami, I’ve met a local TV producer, Thom Mozloom, who was a guest speaker in one of my classes. I followed him out to his car after class and explained that I wanted to be in TV and I wanted to help people. He hired me at NBC 6 a few months later.
It took a few years, but with the help of Thom, colleague Erica Hirschman and the blessing and support of staff and management NBC 6, Forever Family launched on May 30, 2002. The program’s goal is to raise awareness about the plight of children in foster care and recruit loving adoptive parents, foster families and volunteers.
Since then, Forever Family has expanded from a small grassroots initiative to include 9 television stations in Florida and North Carolina, as well as features in national television and radio programming. We have helped more than 2,000 children in their search for loving families, recruited hundreds (maybe thousands) of volunteers, foster parents, etc., and have raised over 1.2 million dollars in cash, goods and services for teens leaving foster care without families and to help families adopting medically needy children. More than 30 million dollars in television airtime has been donated to the program to date, reaching millions of viewers each year.
Locally, Forever Family is made possible by NBC 6 and the Children’s Services Council of Broward County and I am the host on NBC 6 South Florida and NBC 2 Fort Myers. We are tremendously thankful to the wonderful anchors who give of their time and talent to host the segments on our other stations.
Has it been a smooth road?
I have always believed everyone has a calling. Forever Family is my calling.
I’ve “worked” days, nights, weekends, and many times for free. But how can you call a passion, a true love, a calling… work?
My advice to young people is to believe that everything is possible. Don’t give up. Have a vision and work to make that vision come true. The years will go by anyway. Make life what you want. Do good in the world.
There will be 1,000 no’s for every yes. That’s been the hardest part, not taking things personally. Not everyone will see things the way you do. Not everyone will see and believe in your vision. That is why, I am eternally grateful to our partners, sponsors and TV affiliates who believed in mine.
It also helps to have the best team: Lia Janoff, Michelle Rofe, Liz Quirantes, Martha Sugalski, Jasmine Spencer, Eric Thomas and Tenikka Hughes.
So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Forever Family story. Tell us more about the business.
Forever Family is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to helping children and teens in foster care find permanent, loving homes. Together with its sponsors and media partners, the organization focuses on raising awareness throughout communities about the struggles and misconceptions surrounding kids and teens in foster care, while connecting families with their local foster care agencies.
With over $40 million in airtime donated to raise awareness, the organization’s efforts have generated thousands of viewer inquiries, resulting in hundreds of adoptions, new foster families and community volunteers.
Most notable Awards and Honors, include:
Emmy and Emmy Nominations; Congressional Award; DHHS Adoption Excellence Award; Governor’s Award; and Florida’s Children First Media Advocate of the Year Awards for myself, Anchor Martha Sugalski, and Anchor Liz Quirantes.
Forever Family airs on:
NBC 6 South Florida
NBC 2 Fort Myers
CBS 12 Palm Beach
WFTV ABC Central Florida
Action News CBS & FOX Jacksonville
FOX 8 Greensboro
- Website: foreverfamily.org
- Phone: 888 -365-FAMILY
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org