Most 23-year-olds have only one person to think about and that’s themselves. Unlike in generations gone by, people are choosing to wait until later in life to settle down, and as a result, a person’s 20s are often dubbed their “selfish years”. It’s a time when they have relatively few responsibilities, which means that they can change career multiple times if they want to and explore everything in life that interests them.
This often results in young people having an extensive list of Facebook friends – even though they only interact with a handful of them. From people they went to preschool with, distant relatives, and, naturally, the “best friends” they’ve drunkenly made on nights out. So when 23-year-old Tommy Connolly got a Facebook friend request in 2015, the last thing he expected was for it to change his life forever.
To discover what happened next, check out the video below:
Tommy, who lives on Australia’s Sunshine Coast, had just been contacted by his teenage cousin Angela* (to protect her identity, her real name has not been used). He hadn’t seen her in 10 years, and a few weeks later, the 23-year-old became a father AND a grandfather.
When 17-year-old Angela contacted Tommy, her life was, to put it bluntly, a mess. She was illiterate, had used drugs in her early teens (but stopped when she was 15), and at 16-years-old, she fell pregnant. And by the time she had reached out to Tommy, she was 32 weeks along.
Not only was Angela pregnant, she was homeless too, and her belongings were so few that they could fit in a backpack. She didn’t even have a cellphone. It was for this reason that authorities were keeping an eye on her so that her child could be put up for adoption when born.
After discovering that Angela needed help, Tommy immediately drove to the homeless shelter where the pregnant 17-year-old was living and took her into his home. He moved her into his flat and cared for her during the final stages of her pregnancy.
Don’t worry, I’m welling up while writing this story too.
“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,” he told Daily Mail Australia.
“To my knowledge she was OK… but in reality, she wasn’t at all,” Tommy revealed.
“Basically, she was living on the streets, she became addicted to ice and was doing terrible things to get by. She didn’t have anything.”
Angela had finished school in year six, and her baby’s father was unable to support her because he had been sent to prison.
The 23-year-old said that he didn’t think twice about helping his pregnant cousin and opening up his home and his heart to her and her child.
“It’s not her fault, she’s just a little girl who needed help,” he said.
Despite the fact that Tommy had to turn his life upside down to take in his cousin and her baby, he had absolutely no qualms about it.
“Obviously I’m not going to let her stay on the streets,” he said. “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.”
Prior to getting a friend request from Angela, Tommy had been at college, but was on holiday, and had been working part-time for a grocery wholesaler. He had $2,800 in savings, which was just enough money to get a bigger apartment from him and his two new additions.
Tommy was also a keen athlete with a bright future ahead of him, but he quit training so that he could legally adopt his cousin and her baby and work more hours to support them. However, he did return to college as planned in March because he didn’t want to jeopardize his education.
And it was on March 17, 2015, that Angela gave birth to a healthy baby boy she named Joshua*.
Tommy ended up finishing off some of his college assignments in the hospital waiting room.
“I went into uni the day after, I hadn’t slept but I needed to do a presentation,” he said.
Four weeks on from Joshua’s birth, Tommy’s life consisted of working three days a week to support his new family and going to college. This meant that he had very little time to spend with his friends, but he said he didn’t mind the impact it was having on his social life.
“My closest mates are from training, so they’re athletes, and they don’t go out all the time,” he said. “Most of the time they work, train and study, so I’m around a good crew of people.”
After deciding to share his incredible story online, Tommy received countless messages of support from Australians who admired his selflessness. It also led to the creation of a GoFundMe (which has now closed) to ease the financial burden placed on him.
“I know what I’ve done is a really good thing but I feel guilty I’m getting all this attention,” he said. “We’ve had all these messages which has made us realize there are so many other people in this situation, I don’t want people to think it’s a unique thing.”
“I can’t believe how many people have been in these shoes before, and have had no help or support when they were pregnant.”
Tommy also made a point of adding to the Daily Mail Australia that he wasn’t worried about how being an adopted father and a grandfather at the age of 23 wouldn’t affect his chances of having a biological family in the future.
“Growing up everyone thinks about that stuff but you can’t control that sort of stuff, it’s not something that came into my head,” he said.
“At first when Joshua came into the world I didn’t have an emotional attachment, all I was doing was looking after Angela.
“But I really do care for him and in a way he is my kid, I’ve taken on the father role as you’d imagine.”
“Angela 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.”
Three years on, Tommy’s Facebook profile reveals that he’s got a long-term girlfriend and a successful business, and Angela and Joshua are thriving too.
Hopefully, his story will inspire other people to help anyone who reaches out to them when they are in a difficult situation.