Tayvon Gasque was in hiding for a year before the police caught up with him in a stolen car.
It was not the then-17-year-old’s first experience with grand theft auto, or his first time getting busted. But it did put an end to his days in Germantown, where he lived with the parents who adopted him when he was 11. That is what Gasque says he wanted.
With help from the National Center for Children and Families, and a lot more contact with his birth mother, he managed to get his life back on track. Gasque will celebrate his success Friday at NCCF’s 10th annual Art and Soul Charity Auction, where he will act as junior auctioneer.
The Bethesda location of the nonprofit organization has a family homeless shelter, a group home for boys ages 13 to 20 who were removed from or kicked out of their homes, and an independent living program for boys 16 to 21 who are aging out of foster care.
Profits from Art and Soul will be used to buy equipment for NCCF’s Freddie Mac Foundation Youth Activities Center, which is slated to receive $225,000 from a state bond. Maryland requires a $225,000 match from the nonprofit group, said Heidi Webb, director of development and institutional advancement. She said the nonprofit organization is hoping to raise the final $100,000 at the auction — double the usual proceeds.
“We need everything from desks and computers to sports equipment for the gymnasium,” she said.
Gasque, 18, does not know why he and his younger sister were removed from his birth family when he was 7. He still has not asked. His said that his adoptive parents meant well but did not let him see or speak to his mom.
“I was on the honor roll doing good,” he said. “I just wanted to go back to my mother.”
After running away from his adoptive parents nearly a dozen times, he finally made it to his mother’s house in the Lincoln Heights neighborhood of the District, a place filled with the sounds of police sirens and gunshots, he said. Instead of attending high school, he spent his days playing video games and hanging out in the streets.
It was a year later when cops found him in the stolen car.
After three months at a behavioral modification program in Cumberland, part of his sentence for stealing the car, Gasque was sent to the nonprofit group’s group home, where he quickly graduated to independent living. He said he calls his mother nearly every night and visits every other weekend. It is enough contact to keep him satisfied.
Today, Gasque is preparing to take classes at Montgomery College in the fall and said he hopes to transfer to a four-year college.
“Mostly, I just learned how to say ‘no,’ ” he said. “I got older, and I have goals.”
Before graduating from group to independent living, young men must meet a variety of goals — including showing a commitment to education, building positive peer groups and improving communication skills that are established in their treatment plan.
“I would say he breezed through the program because of his mature attitude,” said Julie Oldham, a case manager at NCCF.
NCCF has a $20 million budget, 78 percent of which is from government contracts and grants, Webb said. The rest comes from private donors, including foundations, corporations and individuals.
Part of the proceeds from Art and Soul will go toward an annual summer trip for the young men in the group home, who have been busy creating art for the auction.
“This is my second painting,” said TyRail Sykes, 17, of Salisbury.
His abstract yellow, red and green work is reminiscent of the Jamaican flag, a nod to his family’s heritage. But the colors also honor some of the things he loves most.
Yellow represents the sun on a perfect day; green is the grass outside; and red — “the people that always die and nobody remembers them,” he said.
The auction will take place from 7 to 11 p.m. Friday at the Silver Spring Civic Building at One Veterans Pl. and will follow a Youth Arts Fair outside. Tickets to the auction are $50 per person.