Adversities can affect us at any age. As adults, most of us are prepared to handle difficulties that may come our way, but facing traumas and adversities as a young child can be extremely difficult, especially when there is no parent around to direct the child through a painful season.Traumas in childhood are known to upset the orderly course of development, both psychologically and biologically, and the affected child is often left with an increased risk of adverse outcomes. Unfortunately, some children don’t move past these experiences as they grow into adulthood, while others use the experiences as motivation to propel them into becoming an impressive and successful individual.Attorney Roger P. Foley chose the latter course for his life and has now made it his mission to love the unlovable and help those who have nowhere to turn.
Roger grew up in Central Islip, N.Y. in the late 70’s/early 80’s in a poor neighborhood riddled with gangs and drugs. Although Roger’s parents weren’t in prison, as so many of his childhood friends parents were, he was raised by a mother who resorted to severe physical and mental abuse to get her point across. There was no father around to save him from the daily torture he experienced. Foley describes his efforts in trying to speak out about the abuse as futile.Effective systems weren’t in place in those days, as they are today, for those experiencing abuse. Though he told his story to members of the church and police in hopes of being rescued, help and hope would later come in the form of his neighbor, Arthur Foley – who would ultimately get custody of Roger at the age of twelve.
"At that point, life began to change for me. Although we still lived in a poor area, Arthur, who I call my dad, took me out of public school and sent me to a catholic school. I finally was experiencing what it was like to have someone care about and for me,” recalls Roger. For the first time, he experienced stability, encouragement, discipline and love.Through Arthur’s assistance, Roger became involved in boxing after a boxing gym opened up near his neighborhood. With time, everyone could see that it was a sport Roger was destined to play. “I distinctly remember the first time the head coach, Coach Carter, came over to me. He worked with me for about fifteen minutes. He then blew his whistle and called everyone over,” tells Roger. “He told everyone that if I kept it up, he knew I would make it to the Olympics one day. It was the most incredible statement anyone had made to me up until that point. I remember how excited I was to get home and tell my dad, Arthur.”
Boxing, the sport Roger exceled at, would take him quite far. He would go on to win many local tournaments, advancing him to regional and national tournaments and also the Super Heavy Weight Golden Gloves for Florida. In addition to Boxing, there was another sport Roger would succeed in: Football. He would go on to play football for the University of Alabama while pursuing a degree in Criminology with a minor in Chemistry (later finishing the degree at University of Alabama in Birmingham). “Criminology courses were the only thing that ever came really easy for me. Even though I loved boxing and even enjoyed some acting and film classes I had taken, it was time to make a decision,” he recalls. “I had to weigh each one out.
In regards to the opportunity to travel with the U.S. Boxing team, I had to make a choice and that is when I chose to go to Law School – so, I chose law and less head trauma. It’s not like I walked away from Olympics, it was that I walked away from the USA Boxing team and International competition and a shot to make it into the Olympics. To be elected to be a part of the USA boxing team was very special for me. I was so excited but knew boxing would not last forever. Law was the safest bet and coming from where I came from in life and realizing that this was something I was good at, it’s seemed like the right choice.” Roger would later make it to the Eastern Olympic trials in 2004, but his schedule of finishing up Law School and studying for the Florida Bar did not allow him the time to get the proper training and coaching needed to win.Roger went on to attend Law School at the University of Miami and graduated in 2003. He knew he would now be in a position to do something he had wanted to do for so long – help people. “I think God gave me a special desire to help others. I’ve lived in some really tough situations. Whether it was not having clothes or food for long periods of time, being abused and so forth, I have lived in desperation where no one would help me or even listen to me. As a young kid I really didn’t have a voice. Now, I feel like I can give others a voice – and that I can give people hope,” he explains.
The God Element
Now a criminal defense attorney in Fort Lauderdale, Roger is transparent about his beliefs in God to both his clients and his fellow attorneys. Though he says God is a subject rarely brought up by others in the courtroom, it is a subject that he freely speaks about with his clients. “When someone walks into my office and they are facing a difficult circumstance, it’s not just a job to me. I get involved in my clients lives – though many attorneys have warned me to never take my work home, it’s just who I am,” shares Roger.When younger clients come for a consultation and it’s evident that they are at a fork in the road where their immediate choices may put them on two very different paths, Roger shares advice with them that he received when he was 19. “Whether someone is facing drug charges or domestic violence charges, I give them a ‘recipe for success.'”Roger’s ‘recipe’ is something that was shared with him by Bill Curry, his former football coach at the University of Alabama. “I have them write down four things on a piece of paper. The thing that needs to be first in their life is God, second is their family, third is their education and fourth could be something that they are very good at and that interests them – for me it was football and boxing,” explains Roger. “I always try to approach my clients from a God perspective. I’m not a ‘Bible thumper’ and I can’t quote scripture that well, but I believe in God. I let my clients know that if God is present, then there is hope. I remind them that no one is perfect – I’m flawed too. I struggle with many of the same things that everyone else is struggling with, but I believe God will guide us and get us through everything, if we let him.”
A Person’s True Character
Roger has a lot of intriguing stories. Many involve people who are struggling and have nobody and how they seem to be directed straight into Roger’s path. Whether it’s a story about troubled, young clients in need of mentoring, young victims of abuse who are physically unable to express themselves and need help or elderly people in need of some type of rescue…the list goes on and on. One thing is apparent – that God is orchestrating the meetings between Roger and those who need help and guidance. Though helping can be overwhelming at times, Roger considers it an opportunity to “fight for those who can’t fight for themselves and fixing peoples immediate needs so that they can, hopefully, fix themselves”. Roger only asks one requirement of his clients after they retain him as their lawyer – to remember the two P’s. “First, I need them to be responsible in payment and second, to also be diligent in prayer. That they will continue to pray for me to do my best while I am working on their case and other cases at the same time,” he explains.There is an old saying about one’s character: There are two ways to see a person’s true character – by how they treat those who can’t fight back and how far they will go for someone who can’t do anything for them in return. Spend time with Roger and you will see a young man who will fight to death for those who can’t fight for themselves. You will also see someone who has been given a gift by God of being selfless – he expects nothing in return from those he helps.
Another aspect of Roger’s character shines when he is in the courtroom – the integrity to ‘not sell his soul to win a case’. “I’m quite selective in who my clients are. I listen to the facts and do have to reject some cases. I will not just tell a story to a prosecutor or judge unless I believe in the person, their case and their ability to get their life in order. I would never allow a client to lie on the stand just to win a case. Whether they committed the crime or not, that is the state's burden to prove, but I will not win by lying. It’s just not how I operate,” he adds. His message to his clients and those who are struggling is a simple one: “I’ve always put others before me; I enjoy doing things for others and helping people. God’s given me a special gift and I just thank Him for everything He has done for me. I came from the bottom – from nothing. Divorced parents, a horribly abusive mother and her abusive boyfriends. I was constantly being told that I was a loser and I would go nowhere in life. I grew up on welfare. I could have sat around and done nothing with my life; I could have given up. But I didn’t want to end up like my family. That’s what keeps me going. I know I am not the ‘perfect’ Christian but I know God loves me. I want to share with others that just because they are on a difficult road doesn’t mean that their circumstances can’t be changed. My circumstances changed. I was able to rise up with God’s help. God put people like my father, Coach Carter and Coach Curry in my life for a reason. They all pushed me towards hope – I then realized hope was God, and that has brought me to seek him. I want to tell those who are hurting to have faith. Believing in God doesn’t mean that there will suddenly be an easy path for you in life, but it does mean that you will have someone that helps you along that path – someone who loves you and who will never leave your side.”
In addition to enjoying his career as an attorney, Roger feels like “there might be more that I am destined for. I think God’s given me the ability to speak to people.” One subject he enjoys speaking about is his love for Christ. After being very ill several years ago, Roger realized that “it’s not about the cars or the money or having nice things. I couldn’t even get out of bed to enjoy any of the things I had. They all meant nothing to me”. Roger’s immediate goals for the future include, “Praying; trying to be a better person. There are a lot of goals that I want to accomplish, but I want to do whatever the ‘right thing’ is…meaning whatever God wants me to do. People often talk about this peace they have when they get to a certain point in their relationship with God – that’s what I am aiming for right now – to put God first always and to truly feel His peace.”
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