Maybe it's the name, but this Tommy has an adventurous life too.
Frankly, I stumbled across this story a few days ago. Different sources have different dates, but according to the Independent, it happened already 5 years ago.
Tommy Connolly was just a regular guy enjoying life in his early 20s. A full-time student, a part-time real-estate agent, and a gifted athlete, the Australian native would soon have his promising life turned upside down upon receiving a Facebook message from someone in his past.
This simple message sent to his social media account would alter his life in ways he never thought imaginable.
In a matter of months, he would become one of the youngest grandparents in the world. Along the way, he would encounter challenges he never expected to face. Tommy's life-changing story will stun you.
Just Another Average Student
Tommy Connolly was your average guy - 23-years-young, he was at the time attending the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. He was working part-time as a real-estate agent, and like many blokes, he had great friends and a loving family.
His life seemed perfect with his future mapped out and all his plans on track. However, one fateful message is all it would take for him to alter stop his life's goals in its tracks. Yet, not even this could keep the determined Tommy Connolly down and out. Even though Tommy was pursuing a degree, his real dream was to compete as a sprinter nationally. This was no pipe dream as Tommy was an accomplished athlete in track and field, with him shining so much that his coaches believed he had the potential to represent Australia.
At regional level, Tommy had already tasted success. Due to his work disciplined work ethic and dedication, he was on track to making his dreams come true in the near future. Little did he realize though that his aspiring track career would need to be put on ice by some unexpected news.
During his time off days, Tommy loved the outdoors, enjoying activities such as hiking, white water rafting, and rock climbing. He also worked at various places part-time, including selling fruit and vegetables. During the summer break, when the university was closed, he worked hard and saved up his money.
Tommy was an ambitious, energetic 23-year-old young man who took full advantage of what life and his country had to offer. Soon, he would need this energy and drive to raise his grandson. How exactly did Tommy become a grandpa at 23? Keep reading to find out.
Goals Of Starting His Own Business
At university, Tommy was undertaking a business and economics degree. He had dreams of opening his own business one day. He was frugal with his money and managed his finances meticulously, thereby saving a sizable amount.
In everything Tommy undertook he pushed himself - whether it was academically, physically, or professionally, Tommy knew how to work toward his goals. He was a true inspiration. Yet the road ahead would prove to be a rather bumpy one for the 23-year-old Australian. As they say, behind every successful person is someone helping to push them towards success. For Tommy, this was his girlfriend, Oliva Tauro, and his own supportive family. She was always supportive of both his athletic and business dreams.
Prior to dating each other, they had been friends for eight years. Furthermore, she encouraged him to travel out of Australia in order to pursue his dreams. Olivia would even be with Tommy through the intense period which was to follow.
One fine day, out of nowhere, Tommy received a message on Facebook from a long-lost cousin. He had not been in contact with her ever since her family had relocated to a place called Southport. The two hadn't spoken for close to a decade, but what Tommy would soon hear would leave him shocked.
The two cousins were quite close growing up according to Tommy, "I was really excited to hear from her because I’ve always had a soft spot for her. She was my favorite little cousin, she was the sweetest girl and we got along so well." The cousin was Kiarna, 16-years-old when she contacted Tommy. Like any cousin, he was ecstatic to hear from her after all these years. He wanted to know how her life was going. However, only a few messages into the chat he realized something wasn't right. Since they last had seen each other, Kiarna's life had fallen into a series of unfortunate events, with the teenager struggling to survive. "She was homeless, no shoes, no phone, with less than a backpack full of clothes," Tommy recalls. However, it wasn't just Kiarna who was at risk. Tommy was stunned to hear what had become of his cherished cousin. A number of issues at her family home had led to her being out on the streets alone. She was sleeping outside the Gold Coast beach area with literally nothing but the clothes on her back. To survive, she turned to criminality and as a result had her fair share of brushes with the law. She had also begun consuming illegal substances in order to come to terms with her desperate situation but had since gone cold turkey.
Her life was in peril: her boyfriend was imprisoned which left her all alone to deal with everything life had thrown at her. As a minor on the streets, her fate was unknown. Children left to slug it out on the streets don't usually survive very long. Tommy would later write on Facebook, "Life dealt Kiarna a poor hand, and she’s had to play it best she could. She's spent more time on the streets than anywhere else, and knows the police better than she knows her own family." Things were about to get better for Kiarna though, as her situation was about to drastically change.
Jumping Into Action
It broke Tommy's heart to hear about the distressing position his favorite childhood cousin had found herself in. He felt guilty that he hadn't come to know about her situation earlier. In his mind, he knew something had to be done to help his baby cousin - even if it would the price was steep.
Before Kiarna could say more, Tommy went ahead made a decision to help his cousin. "She didn’t ask me if she could stay with me but I had that day off work so I drove down to the Gold Coast straight away and picked her up. I took her to lunch and she told me her story," Tommy recollects.
Tommy notes how the story troubled him a great deal. "It made me want to do whatever it took to help her. It made any problems I ever had seem irrelevant because the life she has had is so intense. My focus just immediately turned to her."
What Tommy anticipated to be a happy reunion, made for a heartbreaking meeting. "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." With no hesitation or second-thought, Tommy insisted Kiarna come stay with him. He was steadfast in helping his young cousin in any way that he possibly could. Although the young man was still working and studying, he made a huge effort for it to work.
Kiarna arrived alone and illiterate. Tommy was bent on changing all this. The decision he would make next shocked everyone, however, little did Tommy know that his baby cousin was hiding a secret of her own out of fear.
The Big Step
Kiarna had a tumultuous life, having gone in and out of foster homes for the vast majority of her youth, before finally ending up on the streets. Tommy determined that this needed to end with him, and so he offered to become Kiarna's permanent guardian. Tommy was resolute in ensuring his cousin received everything she deserved in life which had cruelly been lacking for her. He made it his mission to ensure she would be healthy and go back to school and be able to read and write.
Kiarna had so far been keeping a huge secret from Tommy - she was 23 weeks into her pregnancy! It frightened her thinking Tommy may choose not to help her once he found out. However, according to him, 'family is family' and he never thought about abandoning Kiarna. Rather than helping his cousin financially or through a third-party such as a women's shelter, Tommy decided it would be best for him to look after his beloved relative, despite what it would cost him.
Learning Kiarna was pregnant was a shock to Tommy. But it wouldn't deter him in his plan to get full permanent custody of his cousin. He knew that not it was not only Kiarna who was at risk but her unborn baby too. After keeping tabs on Kiarna, child services informed her that her child would be removed from her after she gave birth. This thought alone haunted Kiarna each and every day of her pregnancy. Kiarna admitted, "Since carrying this gorgeous boy, all of my friends kept telling me that he would be taken away from me. This made my pregnancy very difficult. All I wanted was to give this little man a better life than I had – a second chance was all I wanted."
In order for Kiarna to give her baby son the life he deserved and the one she desired for him, Kiarna would face a lengthy process with several challenges. Fortunately for the teenager, she now had her guardian angel of a cousin to be by her side. With the birth approaching its due date, Tommy was faced with a race against time to ensure all the documents were filed in time for him to be Kiarna's legal guardian. It certainly proved to be testing with many bumps along the way.
Sadly, their initial application was rejected as Tommy didn't meet the criteria to qualify as a foster parent. The two cousins were left devastated, and nervous over what would happen once the baby arrived. They still held onto hope, however. After consulting a legal expert, Tommy understood there were ways in which these legal barriers could be overcome. Tommy vowed to do everything in his power to ensure his cousin would be cared for. He ended up using his hard-earned life savings to move them into a larger rented apartment.
“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," admitted Tommy. Tommy would stop training for his track and field competitions as a result of his decision to help. “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 her [Kiarna] settled in.”
Remarkably, Tommy even found the time to teach Kiarna how to read and write, and even how to drive! With Tommy's help, she passed her driver's license test and received her learner driver permit. Life looked like it was finally going according to plan for Kiarna.
You're A Father
After helping make significant changes to both their lives, Tommy again filed for full custody of Kiarna, who was still legally a minor. They prayed it would all work out this time, and it was. Tommy had been approved as Kiarna's legal guardian.
Tommy said at the time, “Happy to say she has a new home, as I’ll be taking care of her from now on.” The cousins were thrilled over the news. Kiarna would now be properly taken care of and could look forward to holding her baby's birth with each passing day. Through the ordeal, Tommy remained confident with his decision to become Kiarna's legal guardian. Some, however, believed he was doing more than necessary seeing as he had been on track to become an international athlete, and only dropping out in order to help his troubled cousin.
Tommy didn't think too much of his sacrifice. To the young man, family would always come first, regardless of the personal cost. Tommy put everything into doing what he believed was right, even if helping out Kiarna put a strain on his universities studies and professional work.
Preparing For The Big Day
Kiarna's delivery date was fast approaching and suddenly her life looked vastly different to the one she was living only a few months before when she was literally living on the streets. Now she had a home, clothes to wear, her driver's license could read and write, and also got new braces.
Tommy still had one surprise left for his little cousin, he bought Kiarna a kitten as she had always dreamed of having one. The moment of truth would arrive shortly, with the two as ready as ever. Yet, neither could have expected the love they would feel for the newborn.
About two months after Tommy had become Kiarna's legal guardian, she gave birth to her healthy son on March 16th. Tommy had been in the waiting room the entire time and while working on his university assignment.
Tommy was on hand to film the birth, cut the umbilical cord, and somehow found the time to make it to class the next day and give a presentation. Kiarna chose to name the boy Kayden. At just 23 years old, Tommy had become the world's youngest grandfather.
A New Family
When it comes to the new baby, everyone helps out, especially Tommy and his girlfriend. Altogether, they make up quite the happy family, even if it is an unconventional one. However, they don't really mind what people might think about it all.
“She’s the toughest girl I know!!” Tommy gushed about his cousin. “All she wants is for him to have a better life than she’s had. There’s still a long way to go, but things are on track and she has the opportunity she deserves. When bad things happen, it’s your family that supports you.”
A New Life
Mother Kiarna and son Kayden now appear to be living a happy life as a family with Tommy. Tommy's brother Liam started a GoFundMe page for Kiarna, resulting in many people contributing. The total amounted to close $50,000. Tommy wrote on his Facebook page, “Christmas came early for Kiarna today. She received funding for the first time, she’s moved into a house to get us a brand new fridge, washing machine, dryer, TV unit and some things for the kitchen. We are very lucky. Been a while since we’ve been able to wash our clothes properly!”
Apart from his university studies, Tommy also worked as a real estate agent when not busy being a grandfather. He says, “My cousin does 90 percent of the work– and 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.”
As he kept working in the real estate industry, Tommy still looked toward the future with bright eyes. He had always dreamed of owning his own business. Somehow, he made sure he would achieve this goal while raising a young family.
Never Saying "Can't"
Tommy soon took the bold step of venturing out on his own and established his very own real estate company, called UN Real Estate. His old boss had once remarked it wouldn't be possible for him to do so as he was far too young, lacked the industry experience, and couldn't manage the workload. To someone like Tommy, those words provided inspiration since the word "impossible" clearly isn't part of his ethos. He wanted to prove his former boss wrong and offered his own advice to his old manager, “Never tell somebody they CAN’T do something.”
UN Real Estate
Tommy, chose the name UN Real Estate as it was to be run by un-agents. “We are NOT stereotypical real estate agents. We are real people,” he explained. It was not because the company was "unreal".
Tommy elaborated that he wanted his company to represent real people, not “sleazy manipulative pushy rude cheesy salesmen” as he admitted. UnReal Estate's motto is simple - “We don’t wear ties, we don’t tell lies.” Many could get behind the idea it seems. This wasn't the only change Tommy was about to experience though.
Tommy still can't believe why the story of how he helped his cousin went viral. “Why did the post go viral? It was family helping family. That should always be a standard thing. Since then, we’ve had so many random acts of kindness from people we don’t even know.”
Tommy being the selfless person that he is asking other people to pay it forward. He wants people to do something randomly nice for another person. He hopes it will have a ripple effect. Tommy believes social media won't change the world, but small everyday acts of kindness can.
The Best Gift
Tommy couldn't be happier with his decision. “They say the best gifts in life come badly wrapped. When he was born, it all started to make sense. I lost some friends and family along the way…They never saw the bigger picture. All I wanted was to keep this boy safe and happy.” Tommy wrote on Facebook: “I’d pick him every day of the week, 365 days of the year. I may not be your real dad, but I’m your family and I’ll always be here for you. I haven’t seen my real dad for over 13 years. I learned that a father is what a father does…”
Happy Birthday Kayden
“Family is what family does. Happy birthday to the happiest boy in Queensland, the best looking boy in the family, the best anti-depressant that money couldn’t buy, and the future world champion in whatever he chooses to do. I love you kid,” Tommy posted on his profile.
With a place of their own, Kiarna and Kayden have managed to reconnect with family members Kiarna had fallen out with over time. They are now altogether helping raise little Kayden in order to give him the best life they possibly can. As mother and son, Kiarna and Kayden appear to be doing just fine and enjoying life to the maximum. Kiarna ended up receiving her high school diploma, and now has a fulltime job enabling her to support her little boy.
In an interview with Daily Mail Australia, Mr Connolly said he was aware he’d done a "really good thing" but "felt guilty getting all this attention".