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Olympic gymnast Simone Biles is speaking out about her hardships growing up, being in foster care, and how she’s giving back now.

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The gold medalist was placed in foster care when she was 3 years old, because her mother was addicted to drugs and alcohol. Her grandfather and his wife eventually adopted her and her younger sister, but the sisters still had to spend some time in foster care first.

“I was so young, I didn’t quite understand what was going on,” she said. “But I recall some of the kids coming to the foster home with only the clothes on their back and a backpack.”

After watching child after child come in without basic necessities, Simone knew she wanted to help. The now 19-year-old has partnered with Mattress Firm Foster Kids, a program that has given more than 610,000 items, such as clothes and school supplies, to foster kids and their families. The program is affiliated with 115 nonprofits across 40 states and holds several annual drives to collect items for kids. Biles wants to attend as many of them as possible.

“This is such a personal cause for me, because I know firsthand what it’s like to be in foster care — struggles and all,” Biles said. “I came from a foster home and went on to achieve everything I’ve achieved. I’m just hoping it can inspire other foster kids to never give up and to always pursue your dreams. And to play sports and get good sleep!”

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