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Giving Tree provides help for a teen — and his unborn baby

NORTH TAMPA

Shane Zoller's list hung on a Christmas tree in a break room where Molly Lindsay works. He wanted receiving blankets, infant clothes, diapers. Lindsay wondered if there was a mix-up. Shane, according to the paper ornament with his list, is a 17-year-old boy. Lindsay wanted to know more about the boy, whose name she had picked off the tree to buy gifts. What she found out resonated in her own family. Shane and his girlfriend are expecting a baby girl on Jan. 26. He plans to share custody of the baby they will name Yanella.

Shane and his two younger brothers live in North Tampa and receive mental health and behavioral services through Success 4 Kids & Families. The giving tree was part of the nonprofit's holiday program to provide dinners for 100 families and gifts for 370 children who are served by the organization.

The gifts are purchased by local companies Microsoft, Tribridge, First Citrus Bank, Bouchard Insurance, the Container Store and ConnectWise, and employees of the companies, like Lindsay.

The packages were delivered earlier this week.

Lindsay, a marketing manager at ConnectWise, and her husband, Andrew, live in St. Petersburg with their 5-month-old daughter and his 18-year-old son.

This year, the couple decided to forgo gifts for themselves and instead give to others.

"There's a lot of folks out there who haven't been as fortunate over the years," said Andrew, an accountant at PricewaterhouseCoopers. "Even though we don't know them, we wanted to send a message that we care."

Molly Lindsay picked four ornaments from the tree, one for each member of her family. She called her husband from her office to tell him about Shane's request. They were happy to learn that he was looking forward to his own daughter.

"A baby is such a blessing, such a joy," Molly said. "We're glad he's thinking of it that way."

Shane had been shocked when he learned he would be a father. But at the first doctor appointment, he saw a sonogram and heard a heart racing.

Now, a crib sits next to his bed in the house where he lives with his mother, father and two younger brothers.

On a shelf next to it, booties that he bought fit under a stack of thin blankets.

A grainy black-and-white ultrasound print is tucked into the edge of his bureau mirror, with the word "baby" and an arrow pointing to a peanut shape. Above it, hang miniature boxing gloves and a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball cap. A poem that is over his bed reminds him of his late grandmother, who always gave wise advice.

Shane attends D.W. Waters Career Center, where he's the only boy in his parenting class. There, he has mixed formula and learned what swaddling means and how to do it.

For extra support in his new role, Success 4 Kids will help with in-home education through their program, Healthy Start. He's also looking for a job.

Weeks ago, Andrew and Molly went shopping for gifts to fulfill the ornaments' lists.

They picked out makeup and hair supplies and a journal for a teenage girl and a light-up globe and guitar for a 12-year-old boy with cerebral palsy. For a 6-month-old girl, the couple tried out toys on their own baby.

"If she liked them, we bought them," Andrew said.

He picked out the blankets and shampoo, bottles and diapers for Shane.

There was also an Xbox 360 video game, Halo 4, something to acknowledge Shane for stepping up to take care of his baby.

And then he added a note.

"We picked your card because you are 17 years old with a baby on the way. I was also 17 when my son was born. He just celebrated his 18th birthday this month and I have had full custody of him for the last 10 years. Things were difficult at first, but there is really no better feeling than your child looking to you as their role model knowing that you've done the best that you could do for them. . . .

I wish you the same joy that I have felt since I was 17 years old, with your new baby. Being so close in age makes the relationship really fun. You don't forget what it was like to be a kid."

Elisabeth Parker can be reached at eparker@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3431.

Giving Tree provides help for a teen — and his unborn baby 12/20/12 [Last modified: Thursday, December 20, 2012 3:30am]

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