Nickyray Padilla became a dad at the age of 20. When his daughter was born, worry and anxiety gripped his heart. He had no idea what it meant to be a father. His own dad was never around when he was growing up. Only one memory exists… meeting his father in Wasco State Prison at 8 years old. Why is he in jail? How long will he be in there? Will he ever come home? Questions of a sad, confused little boy hoping one day his dad would surprise him and come home… but that day never came.

Not having a father to guide him, Nickyray ventured into the street life. Following his brothers’ footsteps, at just 12 years old, he joined the gang. That life appeared glamorous to young Nickyray, and he admired the stories of his brothers‘ exploits. He was complelled to surpass his brothers’ notariety on the streets.

In his eager eyes, his brothers were heroes, and he lived every day trying to live up to their legacy. Driven, he quickly made a name for himself. Nickyray would jump into any ruckus: fights with rivals, shootings, drugs, and chances to elevate his status in the gang. He lived this for over a decade, until tragedy struck.

One night, rival gang members approached Nickyray looking for a fight. They pulled guns on him at point blank range and opened fire. Two bullets pierced his chest, and three more tore through his right leg. The only thought flashing through his mind was, “Oh God!” He fell to the ground and yelled out, “I’m hit! I’m hit!”

Miraculously, Nickyray survived the shooting. It took two years of recovery before he could walk again.

Unfortunately, his near death experience did not stop Nickyray from running the streets again. It wasn’t until he was released from jail in 2009 that he turned to Hope Now. He’d learned that Hope Now helped his older brother get a job. “Why not give it a try”, he thought.

He completed the program and landed his first job through Hope Now. Some changes were starting to show in Nickyray’s life, but his addiction to alcohol kept him from experiencing the best life God had planned for him.

With his third son on the way, and already working a fulltime job, the pressure to provide for his family led to a desperate decision to start selling drugs.

Nickyray was living in two worlds: his family life and the street life. It caught up to him, and he ended up serving time in Wasco State Prison.

At last, in 2018, Nickyray finally surrendered his heart to God’s grace. This is when big changes began to happen in his life.

In May 2019, he was released and checked himself into a recovery home. This was based on Hope Now’s encouragement to start taking responsibility, and the sponge object lesson stuck with him. He took everything in, started trusting God with his finances, his family, and his own success.

His goal now is to be the father that he never had. He’s finding renewed purpose in being a father, a husband, a son and a brother. Nickyray will tell you, “Right now is my best chance to be the best I can be!” He doesn’t want to lose that chance for anything. He wakes up every morning saying, “God, here I am.”