By Lauren Pastrana

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Judy Reinach found her calling at the Miami Bridge in 1985.

“I was new to Miami and I was looking for something to do to make a contribution. My friend who is a pediatrician told me about Miami Bridge, and once I saw it, I was in love. I loved it.”

It is a place for kids in crisis; runaways, truant, or homeless. It is the only emergency shelter in Miami-Dade for children ages 10 to 17. Judy put her heart into this nonprofit organization and never looked back. In 1993 she met Chyna Cooper.

“I actually lived in an abusive home; and it was verbal, physical, and sexual abuse. So I actually ran away from home,” Chyna recalled.

The withdrawn and broken 13-year-old arrived at the Bridge and felt safe at once.

“I felt love. It was amazing to have a homey place, something I wasn’t used to. The staff was amazing, everyone was welcoming and it’s actually where I met her,” she said, referring to Judy.  “She said ‘Come sit next to me,’ and I looked at her like ‘Who is this lady?’ So I sat next to her and we started talking and she asked me about, you know, why I was there. And I told her and we both started crying, and from that point on it was a connection between her and I.”

The two call each other “mother” and “daughter” and they’ve been together ever since, just like Judy’s two biological kids, they are family.

“We talk every day, if not every other day. It’s just a mother-daughter relationship, you wouldn’t be able to tell that she’s not my mom,” said Chyna.

Judy says everybody in her neighborhood of Key Biscayne gets the news about her daughter as she talks about her all the time. Seeing them together, you can absolutely feel their devotion.

When Judy jumped out of a plane to raise money for the Bridge, Chyna was there. And though Judy lives in Georgia, when Judy had to have lifesaving surgery last year, Chyna was there.

“She’s been there through everything. I have three kids, she’s gone through that; I got married, she’s been through that. She’s been through all the ups and downs,” Chyna said.

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“I’m always there for her whenever she needs me,” Judy said smiling. “That’s what mothers do.”

“That’s what she always tells me,” Chyna jests.

Chyna believes that the Bridge, and Judy, saved her life.

“Honestly, I don’t think I’d be around, and I say that because the path that I had chosen after everything that’s gone on at home, and running away, was not good. It probably wouldn’t be here telling the story.”

To learn more about the Miami Bridge, click here. 

Lauren Pastrana