Foster father teaches life lessons on primitive camping trips

One of the boys taken on last year’s primitive camping trip in Mississippi.

When Lionel Irons Jr. saw what it meant to then 11-year-old Tyren Hills to be his foster dad, Irons realized it was time to pull the trigger on his longtime idea to help more children.

“I just felt if I can plant that seed when he has a kid he’ll be there for his kids,” Irons said.

Some 15 years later, Hills is successful in life and Irons decided it was time to up his game.

In February of last year, he founded Future Fathers Outreach, a nonprofit aimed at helping children between the ages of 14 to 19. Soon after, he took five boys on his first, “First Time For Everything Retreat,” a primitive camping trip where they went fishing for the first time.

The trip was such a success that Irons started planning this year’s Mississippi camping trip on May 30 for up to 20 children. Irons is seeking donations of fishing poles and camping gear or cash donations to buy them.

“It feels like anything is possible,” he said. “I wanted to have something and I made it happen, and that’s what I’m trying to show them …whatever you dream of can become your reality.”

Irons works at St. Charles Parish Public Schools as a mechanic, but he’s also been coaching children in sports for nearly 20 years, so broadening his efforts to help more children was a logical next move.

“We looked at the kids we coached and measured success,” Irons said. “That’s when we saw some kids went on the wrong path. We felt like we failed that kid. We should have been more than a coach … more than counting the wins and losses.”

But Hills has proven to be a bona fide win.

“His mom told me she didn’t know where his life would have gone without me.” – Lionel Irons Jr.

“His mom told me she didn’t know where his life would have gone without me,” Irons said. “His life path took a very different direction because I was there for the good path, and it inspired me to do more.”

Irons coached Hills in basketball in Boutte.

“He had never met his father so I worked with him and we were attached at the hip from then on,” he said. Irons accompanied him at games, graduation, prom and his first day in college.

Now, Hills accompanies Irons at Future Fathers events and meetings to also help children bond, make better decisions and stay on path in life.

“Just having someone to talk to is way more important than people think,” Irons said. “They get a chance to express themselves.”

He knew its importance firsthand, recounting how his own father was there for him and what a difference it made in his life. His father involved him in activities such as carpentry and fishing, which showed him the importance of bonding with a father figure.

It’s why Future Fathers also shows the importance of philanthropy, as well as entrepreneurship.

“We fed the homeless last year and also did Christmas for the homeless in New Orleans,” Irons said. “I just did that to give them a difference perspective, and give them an appreciation for what we have.”

Irons is dedicated to Future Fathers, as well as the children.

“My passion is dealing with the youth and helping them find their passion,” he said. “I want them to be creative in every way possible in life.”

To make a donation, visit the Future Fathers Outreach Facebook page.

Future Fathers Outreach

  • Lionel Irons Jr. recognizes the impact of his being a foster dad for Tyren Hills and decides it’s time to act on his longtime idea of founding Future Fathers Outreach in February.
  • Hills comes to Future Fathers events to help with inspiring more children to follow their dreams.
  • A May 30 camping trip is planned to Mississippi for up to 20 children.
About Anna Thibodeaux 1967 Articles
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