Finding help and means to a promising new life | AYR benefit breakfast

A troubled teen, Chris Little was living without hope.

A troubled teen, Chris Little was living without hope.

Drug abuse had broken his family. A father shot and killed over a drug deal gone wrong when Little was 1 year old. A mother who almost overdosed, caught in the snare of drug addiction.

And three rudderless boys who had to survive the streets of Auburn.

A family that languished for years as mom bounced from one drug house to another, kicked from this place and that, her sons in tow, sleeping wherever they could find a bit of floor.

Little recalls those dark days.

But the teen proved resolute, refusing to give up on himself.

The turning point came when the 15-year-old boy found his mother unconscious, foaming at the mouth, with drugs nearby. His mom would recover, but Little had seen enough. He called for help.

“CPS (Child Protection Services) told me there was nothing they could do for me,” Little recalled, “so they gave me the number for the Severson House.”

A place Little would come to call home.

The Auburn Youth Resources’ transitional living home gave him structure and the means to succeed in life.

“They were instrumental in giving me shelter and discipline,” Little said. “They just showed me there was a different way of life. … Without them, I would have followed the wrong crowd. Without them, I wouldn’t be here where I am today.”

With a stable foundation, AYR helped point Little in a new direction.

Little, 27, shares his personal comeback story as the keynote speaker at AYR’s 25th annual AYR Valentine Breakfast Fundraiser at 6:30 a.m. next Friday at Grace Community Church, 1320 Auburn Way S.

AYR, a nonprofit agency, continues its important work today as a fully accredited, regional mental health and substance abuse counseling, youth and young adult residential center serving South King and North Pierce counties.

“He’s our success story. This is what we can do,” said Michael Jackson, AYR development director. “With the proper resources, every child who walks through our door can be Chris Little. … If you don’t give up on yourself, if you do the things that are necessary, you can end up like Chris. He’s our shining example.”

A second chance

While his brothers stayed in a group home and later found their way, Little did one better. He excelled in the classroom and graduated from Auburn High School. The Auburn man went on to earn a degree in microbiology from the University of Washington last June. He plans to apply for medical school in September.

His mother, meanwhile, has reassembled her life through rehab. Little frequently sees her.

“She’s still my mom,” Little said. “I don’t look up to her like a normal mother figure, but she is still a part of my life.”

A life that includes dreams of becoming a doctor.

Before returning to school, Little worked for the airlines and travelled abroad, to impoverished countries where his saw his friends perform outreach. During those trips he saw doctors treat the less fortunate.

“It helped me find myself and what I wanted to do,” Little said.

He vows to help others the way others have helped him.

“I know what it’s like to need that help and not have it,” Little said. “That’s a life goal of mine: just to be able to give back the way people have taken care of me.”


Auburn Youth Resources 25th annual Valentine Breakfast: 6:30 a.m. Feb. 12, Grace Community Church, 1320 Auburn Way S. AYR fundraiser. Entertainment, guest speakers. Call now to reserve a seat at 253-351-6059. For more information, visit