A passion for helping local foster kids

It’s been a big year for Skookum Kids, and its founder Ray Deck III. In the past several months, the nonprofit has launched a new program, hired new staff and taken over a struggling business.

Deck didn’t start out wanting to open a nonprofit.

He grew up in North Carolina, and moved to New York at 18. He had never been west of Kansas when he applied and got a job at the Bible software company Faithlife, in Bellingham.

Then, a chance meeting would change the course of his life.

He was at a neighborhood association meeting, and he sat next to a woman who worked in the foster care system. In a 20-minute conversation, Deck learned about the shortage of foster parents in Whatcom County, and many of the other problems in the system.

“What Skookum Kids is today, I knew it needed to exist,” Deck said.

He started meeting with a group that would become the board of Skookum Kids every week.

At the same time, Deck and his wife Keely were going through the process of becoming foster parents themselves.

“The experience of being a foster parent has more in common with the experience of being a parent than most people expect,” Deck said. Foster parents have to deal with their kids’ good days and bad days, just like all parents. But sometimes trauma can make those bad days more complicated, more raw.

“A bad day in foster care, it’s hard and it’s painful, but there’s hope in it and there’s beauty in it when caring adults make it that way,” Deck said. “And that is part of the honor of being a foster parent.”

Deck an his board launched Skookum Kids in 2014. The main project of Skookum Kids is Skookum House. It’s a house where foster kids can be dropped off immediately after being taken from their unsuitable living situation. That means no more late-night phone calls and emergency placements with foster parents.

At the beginning of this year, the nonprofit bought Perch and Play, an indoor playground on State Street in Bellingham.

Just under a year ago, the nonprofit also launched Skookum Parents — which walks families interested in becoming foster parents through the process. So far 12 families have completed the program, and 15 more are set to get involved soon.

Ray Deck is one of this year’s winners of the Top 7 Under 40 Award. Click here to read about the rest of the winners.

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