An Average Student
23-year-old Tommy Connolly was living the life as a student while attending University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. Between his friends, part-time job and great lifestyle, Connolly had no complaints and no worries until one day, when he received an unexpected message on Facebook that turned his life upside down.
Aside from his thriving social life, Tommy spent much of his time training for his university’s track and field team. He is incredibly talented and his coaches saw plenty of potential, leading the student to branch out and compete in regional competitions. Tommy had found his calling and through his hard work and dedication, he dreamed of competing on national and international levels. One thing was for sure, the sole reason that derailed his aspirations was something that no one saw coming.
Work Hard, Play Hard
When the school year finished, Tommy decided to up his work hours to make as much money as he could. In the time that he was off, Connolly was an adventure junkie and would often spend his spare time hiking, white water rafting, and rock climbing, taking advantage of all Australia has to offer. However, he made sure to be mindful of his money and how he was spending it. It turned out that someday in the near future, he would certainly be needing it.
Unlike many other 23-year-olds, Tommy did not spend all the money that he earned. He was brought up well and had entrepreneurial skills, which is why he ended up majoring in business and economics. He had hoped to combine his knowledge of the business world together with his own experiences in sports to start his own company. It was not going to be an easy feat, but Tommy believed in himself and kept pushing through to achieve his goals.
Tommy’s girlfriend, Olivia Tauro, was incredibly supportive of his business ventures and athleticism. Being an athlete herself, Olivia understood the commitment that it takes to make it big. In addition, she was eager for Tommy to branch out of Australia and go travel in the United States to broaden his horizons. Having been friends for eight years before they began dating, Olivia and Tommy had a great foundation, but everything risked being pulled from under their feet when Tommy received an unbelievable message.
Long Lost Cousin
One day, Tommy received a notification on his Facebook page from his long lost cousin named Kiarna. Kiarna was now 16-years-old and decided to reach out to her cousin having lost contact over time. Growing up, Tommy and Kiarna were incredibly close and had a great bond, but after her family moved to Southport, they lost contact and it had been a decade since they last spoke. Tommy was excited to have heard from her and began asking questions about her life.
A Troubled Teen
However, when Tommy received another message from Kiarna, he could not have been more taken aback. The 16-year-old explained that after a string of problems at home, she ended up on the streets. Her internal struggle led her to resort to crime and substances to try and come to terms with her situation. Kiarna had no belongings and nowhere to go, the only person that featured in her life was her boyfriend, but he was now in jail and she was alone.
Tommy was devastated that his favorite cousin had been going through and he felt awful that he hadn’t been there earlier to help her. Immediately after he read her message, Tommy felt compelled to go and get his cousin and take her back to his house for some comfort and shelter. They were family after all, and no teen should be left on the streets with no money or no family and friends to turn to. He was determined to help.
A Sad Reunion
When Tommy first heard from Kiara, he expected their reunion to be a joyful one, but it ended up being anything but that. Upon meeting with Kiara, Tommy recalled “I went and picked her up and she basically started telling me about her situation, which was hard for me to hear because she was my favorite little cousin when I was growing up.” After hearing everything in person, Tommy didn’t hesitate in asking Kiara to come and live with him.
Turning Things Around
As Tommy brought Kiara to his home, she began opening up to him more and expressed that she really needed help. Kiara was just a minor and making decisions for herself was hard enough, forgetting the fact she was homeless and alone. After considering all options, Tommy made the huge decision to become his cousin’s legal guardian. In doing this, he would help her get back on track, go back to school and learn to read and write.
There was one more thing that Kiara had to tell Tommy. Although she hadn’t lied about anything, she was scared to tell her cousin one crucial detail in the case he panicked and denied her help. She finally plucked up the courage to approach her cousin and inform him that she was in fact pregnant. The father was Kiara’s boyfriend who was doing time in prison and she was left alone to deal with her baby. Tommy was shocked.
Despite Kiara’s shocking revelation, Tommy was not deterred and he said to his cousins, “keep the baby, stay off the streets and have a better life.” Tommy was going to help her through every step of the way. Kiara informed Tommy that local child safety services had been following her and intended to take her baby into foster care as soon as it was born. However, through Tommy becoming Kiara’s legal guardian, they could stop child services from getting involved, but it wasn’t easy.
Hitting A Roadblock
Tommy might have only been six-years senior to Kiara, but he still went to the authorities and filed paperwork to become the teen’s foster parent. However, things became more difficult when child services told Tommy that he did not meet the requirements to become her foster father. It was a roadblock that neither of them had expected, but there were ways to get around it. Tommy needed to assess all options before making a huge decision like this.
Taking On Responsibility
After seeking advice, Tommy decided to use his savings to set up him and Kiara in a bigger, rented home. Tommy understood the responsibility he was taking on and made sure to plan accordingly. As a result, he stopped training for track and field competitions to focus on his cousin’s impending arrival. Tommy added, “Everyone likes to tell me this is such a big responsibility, but I wasn’t thinking about uni or work or anything, all I was doing was thinking that she needed me.”
The Extra Mile
Tommy explained the preparation he had been undertaking, explaining “I’ve spent the last few months working, moving houses, having meetings with different departments, signing forms, being assessed and monitored, chasing funds, setting up her bank accounts, buying baby stuff, furniture, going to hospital and doctor appointments and getting [Kiarna] settled in.” He was truly going above and beyond to make sure his cousin was equipped with everything she needed. However, people had surprising reactions when they found out what he had been doing.
Friends and family of Tommy began to find out about the sheer generosity that he had been portraying. He could have just given his cousin some money and arranged for her to be taken in by a charitable organization who could help her, but he chose to do it himself. When others questioned why he did carried out such an altruistic act, he simply responded by saying “It was family helping family, that should always be a standard thing.”
The New Arrival
On March 17th 2015, Kiarna gave birth to a healthy baby boy named Kaydan. Tommy was with her every step of the way and was present in the delivery room at his birth, going as far as to cut the umbilical cord which is a job usually given to the father. Nevertheless, Tommy had other obligations during that time that he couldn’t neglect. He noted “I went into uni the day after, I hadn’t slept but I needed to do a presentation.”
While most other 23-year-olds live a relatively carefree life, Tommy works three days a week to support Kiarna and Kaydan all while studying for his degree. Collectively, this doesn’t leave much time for Tommy to go out and let loose, but he insisted that it’s not something that bothers him. He noted, “My closest mates are from training, so they’re athletes, and they don’t go out all the time, most of the time they work, train and study, so I’m around a good crew of people.”
Father and Grandfather
Despite not having an official title, Tommy was essentially Kiarna’s surrogate father. He made sure he had a roof over her head and a good lifestyle, not to mention all the care that she needed for her son. In addition, Tommy took care of Kaydan as if he was his own and incredibly, in a matter of months, Tommy went from not seeing his cousin in a decade, to becoming her father and grandfather to Kiarna’s son.
As for Tommy’s girlfriend Olivia, despite being absolutely blindsided about the news of his cousin’s pregnancy, she decided to stay with Tommy throughout. In fact, she was in awe of what her boyfriend had done and had the upmost respect for him. The couple had known each other for so long that they would always stick by one another. Olivia also helped Kiarna take care of Kaydan when she needed an extra pair of hands.
Tommy’s family could see his dedication and commitment and wanted to help out themselves. His brother Liam started a GoFundMe page for the family and detailed all that had occurred and why they needed the money. The story quickly went viral and to everyone’s surprise, within 18 days of the page being posted, they managed to raise over $40,000. It was not just the generosity of strangers that warmed their hearts, it was also the fact that other people shared their story too.
Strength In Numbers
Being the kindhearted and generous person that he is, Tommy felt humbled by everything, explaining, “We’ve had all these messages which has made us realize there are so many other people in this situation, I don’t want people to think it’s a unique thing.” He also added, “I can’t believe how many people have been in these shoes before, and have had no help or support when they were pregnant.” Tommy hoped to give other people inspiration through his own story.
Tommy went above and beyond for Kiarna. He made sure she got braces at the orthodontist, passed her driving test, and helped her with literacy skills. She said, “I couldn’t spell to save my life, but when I came here and Tommy was at work, I was bored and I’d text him. So he would spell the word out properly for me.” Kiarna’s life aspirations to become a chef were now achievable, through the help and support from Tommy.
Taking On Fatherhood
When asked if Tommy thought his current situation would affect his own family in the future he said, “you can’t control that sort of stuff, it’s not something that came into my head.” He added: “At first when Kaydan came into the world I didn’t have an emotional attachment, all I was doing was looking after Kiarna, but I really do care for him and in a way he is my kid, I’ve taken on the father role as you’d imagine.”
Tommy has expressed that little Kaydan is “the happiest boy in Queensland.” Tommy added that he intends to give Kaydan the best possible chance at life so that he can be a “future world champion in whatever he chooses to do.” Although Kiarna does the majority of the work, Tommy is also dedicated to Kaydan, saying “if it’s one or two years of my life I have to put on hold to make sure two lives are going to be saved, it’s nothing at all.”