23-Year-Old Becomes World’s Youngest Grandfather
Being a parent at 23 is a common thing, but being a grandfather at this age is a precedent. Surprisingly enough, Australian student Tommy Connolly became the world’s youngest grandfather at the age of 23 and instantly became an Internet sensation.
Tommy was just like any other student in his 20s. He had a part-time job, a girl, and he was an exceptional athlete. All of that was about to change. Now, he is working hard to support his family and earn his degree. Read on to learn more about how this ordinary 23-year-old become the world’s sensation and the world’s youngest grandfather.
1. Just Another Average Student
Tommy Connolly was in many ways just like any other 23-year-old young man. He was attending school at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia, he had a part-time job as a real estate agent, and had lots of great friends and family.
Everything in his life seemed great until one fateful day when he would receive a message on social media that would turn his picture-perfect world upside-down. But even that wouldn’t be enough to bring down the determined Tommy Connolly.
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2. An Above Average Athlete
Apart from being a student and having a robust social life, Tommy was also an accomplished athlete. He really shined in track and field and his coaches saw great potential in him, so much so that he was on track to compete internationally.
Tommy had already seen success competing on a regional level, all due to his hard work and dedication to the sport. But little did he know that his track career would be soon be put on hold by something totally unexpected.
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3. Off Time
In his off time, Tommy loves to do outdoor activities like hiking, white water rafting, and rock climbing. He also had various part-time jobs and in the summer, when he was off school, he worked hard and saved up his money.
Tommy was an energetic 23-year-old that took advantage of all the wonders Australia has to offer. He would soon need that energy to raise his grandson. But just how did he become a grandfather at 23? Read on to find out.
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4. Goals of Starting His own Business
Tommy studied business and economics in college and had dreams of one day opening his own business. Unlike many other people his age, he was good at managing his money and managed to save a substantial amount.
Tommy pushed himself, both academically and physically to work toward his goal. By all means, he was an inspiration. Not many 23-year-olds could accomplish so much at such a young age. But the road was just getting started, and it would be a bumpy one.
NEXT: The most important person in Tommy’s life
5. The Girlfriend
Behind every successful person, there is often a special someone helping them in their drive toward success. For Tommy, that person was his girlfriend, Olivia Tauro, as well and his supportive family. She was extremely supportive of his athletic and business pursuits.
The two had been friends for eight years prior to them dating. She also encouraged him to travel outside of Australia and pursue all of his dreams. Olivia would also be supportive of the extreme situation that was about to unfold in Tommy’s life.
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6. The Message
One day, completely out of the blue, Tommy received a Facebook message from a cousin that he had lost contact with ever since her family moved away to a town called Southport. They hadn’t spoken in around a decade but what he heard from her was shocking.
“I was really excited to hear from her because I’ve always had a soft spot for her. She was my favorite little cousin, she was the sweetest girl and we got along so well,” Tommy said. The two were very close growing up.
NEXT: The dark truth behind the message
7. A Teen In Trouble
Tommy’s cousin, Kiarna, was only 16 at the time she contacted Tommy. He was immediately excited to hear from her and hear how her life was going. But just a few messages into the conversation he understood that something was terribly wrong.
Apparently, Kiarna had experienced a very rough life since they last saw each other and she was struggling to survive. “She was homeless, no shoes, no phone, with less than a backpack full of clothes,” Tommy said. And it wasn’t only Kiarna that was in terrible danger.
NEXT: Criminal activity and drug use
8. A Troubled Childhood
Tommy couldn’t have been in more shock than after hearing of his beloved cousin’s situation. According to Kiarna, a number of issues at home left her out on the streets alone. She had been sleeping outside in the Gold Coast area with nothing.
In order to survive, she was forced to resort to criminal activity and had many run-ins with the law. She also fell into using illegal substances to cope with her situation but had since stopped using drugs altogether.
NEXT: Boyfriend in jail and life on the streets
9. A Child In Jeopardy
Kiarna was in jeopardy. Her boyfriend was in jail, leaving her hopelessly alone to deal with everything that her cruel life threw at her. As a homeless minor, her fate was uncertain. Children left homeless on the streets rarely survive long.
“Life dealt Kiarna a poor hand, and she’s had to play it best she could. She’s spent more time on the streets than anywhere else, and knows the police better than she knows her own family,” Tommy wrote in a Facebook post. But that wouldn’t last for long. Because something amazing was about to happen.
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10. Jumping into Action
Tommy was heartbroken that his favorite childhood cousin was in such a difficult situation. He was also guilt-ridden that he didn’t know about her situation sooner. He immediately knew that he had to do something to help Kiarna, even if it came at his own personal sacrifice.
Without even having to ask, Tommy jumped into action. “She didn’t ask me if she could stay with me but I had that day off work so I drove down to the Gold Coast straight away and picked her up. I took her to lunch and she told me her story,” Tommy later recalled.
NEXT: Tommy listened to Kiarna’s story and he couldn’t believe it
11. Her Story
Tommy said that her story upset him beyond belief. “It made me want to do whatever it took to help her. It made any problems I ever had seem irrelevant because the life she has had is so intense. My focus just immediately turned to her.”
What Tommy originally thought would be a joyous reunion, turned into the exact opposite. “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.”
NEXT: Tommy knew that the next step is finding Kiarna a good home
12. A New Home
Without even hesitating, Tommy offered Kiarna a place to stay with him. He was determined to help his little cousin in any way, shape, or form that he could. Even though he was both working and studying in college, he made it work.
When Kiarna arrived, she was alone and illiterate. Tommy was determined to change all of that. What he did next would shock everyone, but what Tommy didn’t know was that Kiarna had a secret that she had been keeping to herself out of fear.
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13. The Big Step
Kiarna had had a tough life, going in and out of foster care for the majority of her life before ending up on the streets. Tommy decided that all that was going to end with him, so he offered to be her permanent guardian.
Tommy was head-strong in giving his cousin everything she deserved in life that had been taken away from her. He was going to make sure that she was healthy and get her back to school to learn how to read and write.
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14. The Secret
The secret that Kiarna had been hiding was the fact that she was 23 weeks pregnant. She was terrified that the revelation would cause Tommy to hesitate to assist her, but according to him, a family is family and he wasn’t about to abandon Kiarna.
Instead of just supporting her from a distance or trying to find a shelter that would take Kiarna in, he was determined to help his dear relative all by himself, no matter what the personal sacrifice.
NEXT: Child service had something to say about Kiarna’s situation
15. Bigger Issues
Finding out that Kiarna was pregnant did indeed shock Tommy, but he was still going forward with his plan to gain permanent custody over Kiarna. Not only was she in jeopardy, so was the fate of her unborn baby.
According to Kiara, child services had been following her around and had already informed her that her child would be taken from her after she gave birth. That was a lingering fact that haunted Kiarna every day of her pregnancy, that she wouldn’t be able to keep her baby.
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16. A Second Chance
“Since carrying this gorgeous boy, all of my friends kept telling me that he would be taken away from me. This made my pregnancy very difficult. All I wanted was to give this little man a better life than I had – a second chance was all I wanted,” Kiarna said.
But in order for Kiarna to give her baby boy the life that he deserved and the life she wanted for him, there would be a long and difficult journey ahead of her. But luckily for her, she now had Tommy by her side to help.
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17. Race Against Time
With the baby arriving shortly, Tommy was in a race against time to make sure that all the legal documents were filed so he could be Kiarna’s legal guardian. But it wasn’t easy and they ran into many roadblocks along the way.
Unfortunately, on their first attempt to file the paperwork, they were informed that Tommy did not qualify to be a foster parent. Both he and Kiarna were heartbroken and fearful of what would happen to her baby boy once he arrived. But they weren’t about to give up hope.
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18. Anything It Takes
After seeking legal advice, Tommy learned that there were ways around the legal obstacles and he did everything in his power to make sure that Kiarna would be taken care of. He even used up his life savings to get them a bigger rented apartment.
As a result, Tommy stopped training for his track and field competitions. “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.”
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19. Getting Ready
“I’ve spent the last few months working, moving houses, having meetings with different departments, signing forms, being assessed and monitored, chasing funds, setting up her bank accounts, buying baby stuff, furniture, going to hospital and doctor appointments and getting [Kiarna] settled in.”
Tommy even started to teach Kiarna how to read and write, as well as how to drive. Thanks to Tommy, she passed her driving test and received her learner’s permit. By all means, her life was now on the right path.
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20. You’re A Father
After making significant improvements in both of their lives, Tommy filed again for full custody of Kiarna, who was still a minor. They both prayed that it would go through. And this time, his request was approved. He was now Kiarna’s legal guardian!
“Happy to say she has a new home, as I’ll be taking care of her from now on,” Tommy said. The two couldn’t have been more excited. Not only was Kiarna going to be taken care of from now on, but the fate of her unborn baby also kept looking brighter and brighter by the day.
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21. Other Reactions
While Tommy was completely confident in his decision to become Kiarna’s legal guardian, some people thought he was doing too much. Tommy was on track to become an international athlete, before dropping out to help his long-lost cousin.
To Tommy though, that didn’t matter one bit. To him, family always came first, no matter what. Even though helping out Kiarna put a strain on his college studies, and he was still working, Tommy put his all into doing what was right.
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22. Preparing For The Big Day
Kiarna’s due date was right around the corner and her life was looking completely different from the one she had only a few short months ago lived on the streets. She had a house, clothes, got her driver’s license and even got new braces.
But there was still one surprise in store for her: Tommy got her a kitten! It was something that she had always dreamed of having. The big day was right around the corner and both Kiarna and Tommy were are ready as they would ever be. But they never expected the love that they would immediately feel for the baby boy.
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23. It’s Time
Just around two months after Tommy became Kiarna’s legal guardian, her baby was born. Kiarna gave birth to a beautiful healthy baby boy on March 16th. While Tommy was in the waiting room he was working on a college assignment.
Tommy filmed the birth, cut the umbilical cord and even made it to class the very next day to give a presentation. Kiarna named her baby boy Kayden and Tommy, at just 23 years old, became the youngest grandfather in the world.
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24. A New Family
Everyone helps to pitch in with the new baby, including Tommy and his girlfriend. Together they make one big happy family, albeit an unusual one. But they don’t mind what other people might think of their unique situation.
“She’s the toughest girl I know!!” Tommy said of his cousin. “ All she wants is for him to have a better life than she’s had. There’s still a long way to go, but things are on track and she has the opportunity she deserves. When bad things happen, it’s your family that supports you,”
NEXT: GoFundMe campaign for Kiarna
25. A New Life
Kiarna and Kayden are now living their new happy lives together as a family with Tommy. Even the community pitched in after hearing their harrowing story. Someone started a GoFundMe page for Kiarna and loads of people contributed.
“Christmas came early for Kiarna today,” Tommy wrote on social media. “ She received funding for the first time, she’s moved into a house to get us a brand new fridge, washing machine, dryer, TV unit and some things for the kitchen. We are very lucky. Been a while since we’ ve been able to wash our clothes properly!”
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26. Real Estate Agent
In addition to school, Tommy works as a real estate agent while he takes on some of the [grand]fatherly duties. “My cousin 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,” he says.
While he worked successfully in the real estate industry, Tommy continued to look toward the future. He dreamed of running his own business and unsurprisingly, he made sure to accomplish that goal two while simultaneously raising a family.
NEXT: Tommy decided to make a huge professional jump
27. Never Saying “Can’t”
Eventually, Tommy started his own real estate company called UN Real Estate after his old boss told him that he couldn’t do it. He told Tommy that he was far too young, didn’t have enough experience and couldn’t take the work.
To Tommy’s ears, those were fighting words. He set out to prove his old boss wrong. Tommy had a bit of advice for his old boss, too, “Never tell somebody they CAN’T do something.”
NEXT: Opportunities don’t happen, so Tommy created them
28. UN Real Estate
When asked why he named his company UN Real Estate, Tommy answered that it wasn’t because the company was “unreal,” it was because they are un-agents. “We are NOT stereotyped real estate agents. We are real people,” Tommy stated.
According to him, the brand represents real people and not “sleazy manipulative pushy rude cheesy salesmen” as he said in his own words. The company’s motto is “We don’t wear ties, we don’t tell lies”. But that wasn’t the only thing in Tommy’s life that changed.
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29. Pay It Forward
Tommy continues to be surprised that his story of helping Kiarna went viral. “Why did the post go viral? It was a family helping a family. That should always be a standard thing. Since then, we’ve had so many random acts of kindness from people we don’t even know.”
That’s why he is asking other people to pay it forward, to do something randomly nice for someone else and hopefully, the phenomenon will have a ripple effect. Tommy says that social media can’t change the world, but small gestures of kindness can.
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30. The Best Gifts
“They say the best gifts in life come badly wrapped. When he was born, it all started to make sense. I lost some friends and family along the way…They never saw the bigger picture. All I wanted was to keep this boy safe and happy.”
“I’d pick him every day of the week, 365 days of the year. I may not be your real dad, but I’m your family and I’ll always be here for you. I haven’t seen my real dad for over 13 years. I learned that a father is what a father does… “ Tommy wrote.
NEXT: Tommy lost some friends and family members
31. Happy Birthday Kayden
“Family is what family does. Happy birthday to the happiest boy in Queensland, the best looking boy in the family, the best anti-depressant that money couldn’t buy, and the future world champion in whatever he chooses to do. I love you kid,” Tommy posted.
Kiarna and little Kayden now have a place of their own to live and have reconnected with family members that Kiarna had fallen out of touch with. Together they are all helping to raise Kayden and give him the best life possible.
NEXT: Kayden is the happiest boy in Australia
32. Living Life
Today, both Kiarna and Kayden are doing great and living life to the fullest. Kiarna received her high school diploma after learning how to read and write, now she has a fulltime job and is able to support her beautiful son.
While Tommy may be one of the world’s youngest grandfathers ever, the world’s youngest grandmothers are even younger! Read on to find out the amazing story of how one Romanian woman became the world’s youngest grandmother at the young age of 23.
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33. The World’s Youngest Grandmother
The world’s youngest grandmother is a Romanian gypsy woman by the name of Rifca. Today, she is in her early 30s, but she became a grandmother when she was only 23 years old! Getting married young is common in the gypsy community.
But this marriage was different. Rifca had been promised to another family since the very young age of two, but she wasn’t about to let that happen. She ended up falling in love with a different boy at the age of 11.
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Rifca’s parents didn’t approve of her falling in love with a boy when she was promised to another already. But Rifca was head-strong and ended up running away from home at an early age. She was only 11 at the time.
The boy she fell in love with was a 13-year-old boy named Ionel Stanescu. He worked as a jewelry seller and the two decided that they were going to get married with or without her family’s approval.
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Rifca and Ionel got married in secret against her parent’s wishes. “I wanted to marry him, so I agreed, and of course after we had spent the night together then there was no way anyone could separate us,” Rifca said.
But that’s when the troubles started. In Romanian gypsy culture, it’s common for the groom’s family to give a large dowry to the wife’s family. As none was paid, her father was further angered. Not only did Rifca get married to someone else, but her family didn’t receive the traditional money.
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Not long after Rifca and Ionel got married, Rifca got pregnant. She had a baby girl named Maria when she was only 12 years-old. That alone made her one of the world’s youngest mothers, but that’s not all she would become.
After giving birth to her daughter Maria, her husband’s family finally paid the dowry and the family issues were resolved. “My dad was really annoyed at being cheated out of the right to decide who would be my husband and the dowry,” Rifca said.
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37. Stay in School
“But then I got pregnant when I was 12 – a year later – and that meant that my husband’s family paid my father a dowry and then there was peace.” Rifca, like any mother, wanted the best for her daughter Maria.
That included staying in school and getting a good education, something that her mother didn’t do. But little did she know, Maria had plans of her own and the path that she would take was much like that of her mother.
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38. Like Mother Like Daughter
Even though Rifca and her husband Ionel encouraged their daughter to stay in school, Maria dropped out of school at the age of ten. She dropped out because she met a boy and they were already planning on getting married.
“I did not try to stop my daughter getting married because this is the tradition, it’s what happens,” Rifca said. In their Romanian gypsy culture is it quite common to get married at a young age.
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39. An Unexpected Turn
Then, just a few months after the young couple married, the unexpected happened. Maria was pregnant. Just six month after Maria married she gave birth to a baby boy name Ion. This turn of events made Rifca a grandmother. Rifca’s mother became a great-grandmother at 40-years-old.
“I am happy to be a grandmother but I wished something else for Maria – and something else for me,” Rifca lamented. Rifca wished that her daughter Maria, now a mother, had stayed in school and finished her education, making a better life for herself.
NEXT: Happily ever after is not possible in Gypsy culture
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“Ion is a good boy – and he is already engaged to a girl aged eight. Boys are always good to have – they don’t have to suffer as much girls, I think,” Rifca said, admitting that gypsy culture is more favorable to boys.
Rifca, at just 23 years-old is the youngest grandmother on record. Guinness World Records doesn’t list the world’s youngest grandmother or grandfather. But if they did, Rifca and the amazing Tommy would top the list.