Late in 1993, Carl and Arlene Shipley learned about a young girl that had contracted AIDS through sexual abuse. They were childless, and they thought carefully about this serious responsibility. Their doubts and fears disappeared when Tashia flew into their arms at their first meeting and asked Arlene was she going to be her new mommy.
In 1994, Carl and Arlene Shipley opened their hearts and home to Tashia. As medical foster parents to this abused and neglected child (and after her death, foster parents to 27 teenage boys from Juvenile Justice) the Shipleys learned that love and attention can and does work miracles in the lives of abused children that others have forgotten. The Shipleys lost Tashia to AIDS, but their love and care allowed Tashia to live two years as opposed to the two months the doctor had predicted.
Tashia was believed to have been the first child in Florida to have contracted the HIV virus through sexual abuse. Government reports show that the abuse began as early as two years of age with her first sexually transmitted disease. She hid in closets out of fear and was inflicted with pain at a young age. The Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services removed Tashia from her abusive home. The Shipleys introduced Tashia to religion and spent most of their days encouraging her, giving her positive attention and loving her.
To the Shipleys, Tashia was not a statistic; she was their child. She was a real person who was never allowed to just be a child. After her death, they realized that there was more to be done. The couple founded AngelAID in 1995 in Tashia’s memory, and turned their pain into positive action.
AngelAID is a nonprofit agency solely devoted to providing services and support to children with life-threatening illnesses or situations. A grass-roots organization that has made significant contributions to the Jacksonville community, AngelAID serves more than 2,000 children. AngelAID includes a free clinic, Thanksgiving services are coordinated for 1,500 annually, more than 55,000 Christmas gifts are given to AIDS children and families every year, and dozens of families have been moved out of homeless environments.
The Shipleys were pleased to be able to relocate the AngelAID offices into a two-story complex, “The Tashia Shipley Building”, that was renovated entirely by volunteers. AngelAID now has party rooms and a sanctuary on the first floor that holds the weekly five-hour children’s respite party. The second floor houses a free medical clinic where Carl Shipley, who is a licensed nurse, and doctors donate their medical expertise and counseling on-site. The Shipleys also visit schools, churches and organizations to educate the community about death, abuse, AIDS and at-risk children. They believe they are angels on earth, a belief to which Arlene Shipley is a living testimony because she was able to overcome 16 years of child abuse and be a loving, productive citizen. Carl finished his PhD in family and marriage counseling in December 2000, and now runs private and group counseling sessions at AngelAID. Dr. Shipley and his team of doctors offer families a place to vent their fears and losses.
In the future AngelAID will begin a model children’s program, AngelWARRIORS. This program will be a “good gang” concept that gives real life rewards to children in any program for taking personal responsibility for their decisions and giving back to their community. Their aim is to make it “cool” to be good and give back.