Family loses everything except courage and resourcefulness, camping in a national forest to survive

October 4, 2017 5:30 am Last Updated: October 4, 2017 5:34 am

Jade Pohlman’s family story is one of getting back up after falling down repeatedly. She and her family are a perfect example of what so many of us take for granted: that what we have today can disappear tomorrow in the blink of an eye. How we respond when something like that happens is how we determine if it was a failure or a life lesson.

The fall was sudden.

Jade was just a kid, an eighth-grader, who happened to have very wealthy parents. As a successful builder, Jade’s father was able to provide a large home, expensive cars, and a lavish lifestyle. Their affluence would end quickly when the recession hit in 2008 and the housing market was in turmoil, sending them suddenly from wealth to poverty. They lost everything.

“My parents lost their business, our car, our home, our toys,” said Jade in an interview on The Ellen Show. “Everything.”

Her youthful naivety was quickly outgrown.

The now 23-year-old had no idea what was going on at the time. Her youth brought naivety and was a blessing in disguise at first. The reality sunk in when it was impossible to ignore. 

“I woke up in the middle of the night, and I could see lights flashing and I went to the window and was like, “’What’s going on?'” explained Jade. Everything was being repossessed.

What wasn’t taken was shoved into a storage pod. The rest they had to give away before they rented a car, and drove off from Chicago to what was then an unknown destination.

They had no home, so they camped in the forest.

“We ended up driving across the country and landed in Flagstaff, Arizona,” explained Jade. “We had enough money to buy camping supplies and we lived in the national forest for weeks because it was for free.”

Jade, still being a kid, was very excited about the idea of camping. “My dad is very good at getting people excited about things, so once we understood that we were going to be leaving, he was like, ‘OK we’re gonna start over! We’re gonna go somewhere cool, we’re gonna go somewhere new where there’s fresh air and sunlight!'”

The day-to-day struggles brought them closer together.

That excitement, however, wore off pretty quickly. 

Her mom had just started a job and owned three work dresses, which she would wash by boiling water over a campfire. Her dad would pour water over her mom so she could shower.

The kids would go to the campsite pool to use the showers because they were free.

Jade was in school while all of this was happening, but very few knew about their living circumstances. She tried to keep it a secret because she was embarrassed. “I was embarrassed, I didn’t want people to know I was showering in a public pool in the morning,” shared Jade. “I told a couple of teachers of mine, they knew; I trusted them.”

The family ended up bouncing back and forth from the national park as they tried to sort out their lives. “We camped on and off three times, “said Jade. “The first time was when I was a freshman, then a sophomore, and then my senior year.”

Now their lives are on the up—and they got a bit of a helping hand from Ellen.

The family is on their way back up from those times of struggle. They were renting a home in Austin, Texas when Jade appeared on the Ellen Show to share her story.

So Ellen surprised them with a $20,000 check from Shutterfly.

“We stayed positive during the entire experience, and even though we may have lost everything, we gained the world,” concluded Jade.