If you’re in need of an inspiring story, we have one for you: Meet the Shepard sisters, a trio of homeless siblings who are achieving big things. Despite living in a shelter in Bushwick, Brooklyn, Brooke, 8, Rainn, 10, and Tai Sheppard, 11, are all headed to the Junior Olympics in Houston, Texas.
According to Jezebel, the sisters live with their mother, 46-year-old Tonia Handy, who works as a phone operator at a car service, and saw tough times when the girls’ half-brother was murdered. The Associated Press wrote that soon after, Hardy and her family were evicted from their Bedford-Stuyvesant apartment for failing to pay the rent. They were then placed in a motel shelter in Queens and later to another shelter in Brooklyn.
“The first time we got there, there was just roaches everywhere,” Tai says. “Every time I looked on the floor, a roach. And every time I looked on the ceiling there was a roach. It was horrible.”
But with the help of a babysitter, the girls got involved in track, which didn’t involve any entrance fees, and they quickly caught the eye of the famed Jeuness Track Club. The owner, Jean Bell, was instantly impressed by the young girls, but had no idea they were all related. By the end of the first day, Bell gave her business cards to each of the girls separately with the instructions to have their mother call or just show up to practice, AP noted.
And with hard work and lots of practice, the sisters found themselves qualifying for the Junior Olympics in multiple events, including the 3,000, 1,500, and 800-meter run as well as the high jump.
Sadly, their mother won’t be traveling with her girls down south.
“I’m not going because the shelter has a curfew and I still have to work,” Handy says. “It’s not that kind of job where you can take time off. You don’t go, you don’t get paid.”
However, Hardy is clear that this will be life-changing for her daughters. “This is a means to get them to college to opening doors that maybe I can’t open for them,” she said.
Want to help the sisters get to the Junior Olympics? Donate to their GoFundMe page.