Above all, Kyle Forti wanted to be known as a husband, father and foster dad.
And as she prepares to bid farewell to her husband, Hope Forti says his many friends and those whose lives he touched can best honor his memory by giving some thought to helping with foster care.
Forti, a Colorado Springs political consultant, was one of five people killed in a helicopter crash in Kenya on March 3. He would have turned 30 on Aug. 31.
“That would be Kyle’s ask to people, that we can be involved with people who are not like us and give up some of our precious, quiet, perfectly styled life,” said Hope, who with her husband fostered four children over four years and founded a nonprofit to support foster families.
“He would want me to use this as a chance to ask people to think about it, to examine foster parenting. Lots of people shouldn’t. But if we had a small percentage of people who could look at it and say, ‘Can I do this and do it worthy of a child without self-interest taking over?’ then we would ask them to try it.”
A memorial service for Forti is set for 4 p.m. Thursday at Shove Chapel on the Colorado College campus in Colorado Springs, with a reception to follow at Grace and St. Stephens Episcopal Church.
Hope is encouraging friends to bring memories and photos of Kyle to share, and she emphasized that children are welcome at the service.
“It’s really important to our family that we include children and we’re honest with them,” she said in a video describing the planned memorial.
“I’ll say, ‘In lieu of flowers, please attend a foster parent information session.’ Just think about it. What do we have other than children in this world? We don’t know how to love without learning from children, without learning how to bend ourselves to children that are not easy to love.”
She’s also urging friends to donate to Foster Together Colorado, the nonprofit that the couple founded in 2016 to support foster parents. (A memorial project in the works would recruit “more good people” to be involved in foster care. Sign up at fostertogether.co for updates.)
Hope said her husband’s work, as a co-founder of Denver-based D/CO Consulting who managed state and congressional campaigns, took a firm backseat to his family role, including as father to their 5-year-old son, Maximus.
“He was going to take this one last trip and then stay home,” she said. “He’s been loving this time post-election with Max. They’re just best friends. He just really wanted to pay attention to his kid and listen to him as a human being.
“We’re seeing so much of this generational cycle of children who don’t feel secure and loved and attached and don’t grow up into loving families,” she said. “The last conversation we had before he left was talking about how we want to get started with that again.”
Also killed in the helicopter crash were Americans Anders Asher Jesiah Burke, Brandon Howe Stapper and David Mark Barker, and the Kenyan pilot, Mario Magonga. The cause of the crash is under investigation.
Hope said the couple had planned to start fostering teenage mothers and their babies when Kyle returned. They found out she was pregnant shortly before he left for Kenya. “We felt like it would fit to have either two babies in the house or two pregnancies in the house. We’ve always felt we have extra love to give and can always adjust to have extra time to give and energy. That’s what it takes.”
In addition to fostering four children, starting with two sisters soon after Max was born, the Fortis have volunteered as Court-Appointed Special Advocates of the Pikes Peak Region and lately were providing respite care for more than a dozen foster families.
Hope said they continually were struck by the chasm between their comfortable life “and this deep neediness — not just poverty of money, it’s poverty of relationships. That is what we can give through foster care, trying to offer support when a parent is getting close to the edge of abuse or neglect and making sure it doesn’t get there.
“We can’t fix it all. We’re not going to feel like we’re doing enough, ever. But we have seen it, and we can’t not see it anymore.”