An interview with Anna Renee Anderson, Urban Surf 4 Kids Mentor and alumni, former foster youth and soon to be college graduate
Hi Anna. Tell us a little about yourself:
When I first met Urban Surf 4 Kids (US4K) and first got
on a surfboard, I wasn’t a foster youth. I wasn’t a survivor of horrific abuse. I wasn’t anything but a surfer trying to catch a wave. The founders, Wesley and Deborah Stewart, made an instant connection. To this day, they are parental figures to me and people that I hold very closely to my heart.
Urban Surf 4 Kids is not just a non-profit to me; they are my family, my brothers and sisters, my Ohana (the concept of “family” in Hawaiian Culture). Craig (San Diego Chapter President, US4K) is like the older brother I never had and continues to astound me with his love for this program and the youth that it serves.
It was through the love and support of many people that I am now in my final semester of college and about to be part of the 3% of foster youth
that actually graduates from college!
But, my road to finding Urban Surf 4 Kids was a long one.
My name is Anna Renee Anderson and I am a former foster youth. I was born into a family of 10 children to two extremely abusive individuals, my biological
The abuse my siblings and I survived was horrendous; physical, mental, emotional, sexual abuse and torture. We moved around a lot any time people got suspicious. At times, we were homeless with 10 kids either living in a van in the hot summers of Phoenix and Las Vegas, or living on the streets. We were not allowed to go to school, as my biological father was extremely paranoid that someone would uncover his crimes. The abuse was so bad that I nearly lost my life many times throughout the 14
years I was with my biological parents. Death was the only thing that seemed certain in my life throughout those years.
In 2010, after many failed attempts to escape and find a new life for my younger siblings, I finally escaped with the help of my friend Elizabeth. Elizabeth was an arcade worker at a casino that my father frequently visited, as he had a severe gambling problem.
I rescued myself and 6 of my siblings and that is when an entire new life began to flourish for us. A wonderful couple took in
all seven of us and eventually ended up adopting the 5 of us that wanted to be adopted. However, there were still many challenges for me throughout those years. I was aging out of the foster care system and felt extremely lost and without any connections. I found Urban Surf 4 Kids.
The people that have entered my life since April 21st, 2010 (the day I escaped) have helped me create a life I never dreamed was possible. Today, I call Elizabeth my sister and closest friend. I volunteer with Urban Surf 4 Kids,
and that Ohana has changed my life.
It is my hope and dream that I can help spread the hope, the love, and Aloha (Hawaiian word for peace, affection and love with a deep cultural significance) to other youth that have endured similar circumstances. I
want to let them know that there is a way out and a life of happiness is theirs if they are willing to fight for it. My life hasn’t been easy, but with the support of all of the amazing people around me, it has been very much worth it.