Every family has its hard times. Richard Fogarty’s childhood, however, was a nightmare no child should endure. Amazingly, he says he wouldn’t change a thing about the hardship that made him who he is today. Richard sits down to talk about the long, dangerous path he has taken along the way.
Families are havens for secrets. In each family’s collective history are hardship, lies, betrayal and pain. The most close-knit of families are able to address these experiences, draw together and overcome them. Other families ignore the heartache, hide it in cupboards, pretend it doesn’t exist. My family are very close which has helped me. i find it hard to discuss my past horrors – what happened, what should have happened, who is to blame. At barbeques, Christmases and birthdays, we sit and laugh and drink and silently know what has gone before, what brought us to where we are, the true nature of one another, and this is why we are a very close family.
I was built out of my childhood. While much of my personality was forged from a need to be accepted and loved in a crowd of kids, it has made me strive for success in everything I do, and cherish the ones I love. All of us take something from our upbringing, whether it is good or bad. I wouldn’t change the way I was raised, despite the darkness that sometimes crept into my childhood, because I am proud of who I have become.
Richard Fogarty feels the same way about his upbringing, which was nothing less than rock hard. Raised in various hotels across New South Wales, Richard and his brother spent their afternoons avoiding a rabble of bikies, prostitutes, drunks and drug addicts who frequented the cheap establishments. While their parents worked day and night running hotel restaurants and bars, Richard and his brother ran across hotel roofs, hurled fruit at cars and antagonized hotel guests for their own entertainment.
For our interview, Richard and I sit together at a cafe on the Sunshine Coast. Richard cuts a mean silhouette; he is broad shouldered, with muscular arms covered in tattoos. He is freckled and ginger-haired, with a nose that has obviously taken more than a couple of hard knocks. We get a few intimidated glances from the other diners. “I’ve been getting this all my life,” he grins. “I was an ugly, red-headed kid from a very different upbringing, but I was the outgoing one between my brother and I. I took care of him. Whenever we ran into other kids or adults, my brother would hide behind me and hold my shirt.”
When a family friend was commissioned to take care of the boys while Richard’s parents were working, Richard made sure he took care of his brother in more critical ways. Richard tells me he was four or five years old when this family friend began sexually abusing him. “I took it upon myself to protect my brother from that sort of danger,” he says. “I would deliberately fight with him to get him to take off. It was my secret, my pain, and not something I could share with anyone else. It was 30 years until I could even speak openly about what happened.”
Much of Richard’s childhood is a blur. The abuse caused him to shut out what happened in those dark years. “The good stuff I remember,” he says. “Our mother filled our lives with love, loyalty and even animals to try and make life as normal as possible. We had a farm out the back of our hotel that we invited all the local kids to. The bad stuff about my childhood I try to forget. I had a rough time in school while this was going on, because I couldn’t trust anyone. It takes that from you, the abuse. You lose the capacity to interact normally with others.”
Normality returned to Richard’s life when the family moved from the hotel where they were staying into another in Mathoura. When the family friend followed the family to that hotel when Richard was about six, he was able to escape the abuse a second time when his mother and father sent him and his brother away to stay with his grandparents in Tamworth. The demons that haunted Richard still pursued him.
Richard met his wife, Casey, at a Thai boxing gym. Fighting competitively had been one of the only refuges Richard could find; an outlet for his aggression and anger. “I’d discovered a way to legally hurt people,” he says. “I’ve looked back on it recently and I think I was probably trying to assert my masculinity, to show people I was dangerous and I could stand up for myself.” Casey Richard’s wife was only 15 when they met, and Richard knew he liked her from the outset. They had two children, Jett James and Dakota Lilly.
In 2004, Richard retired from the sport with around 50 fights under his belt from Thai boxing, kickboxing, boxing and karate, only one of those a loss. After starting a successful businesses, developing a clothing brand, and speaking as a life coach and inspirational speaker, Richard put his energy into every venture he takes on, and loves being an ambassador for his Foundation for Life School Programs. “I’ve been blessed in what I believe is my purpose in life and have come across some wonderful people who have really changed my life . It’s changed the way I see my family too. I realise now that it’s safe to be involved, it’s safe to stop worrying about what I might lose if I get too close to them. I have two beautiful children and they need guidance.
RichardFogarty.com Empower – Inspire – Motivate seminars grew out of Richard’s desire to provide a safe outlet for young people who are lost, as he once was. “I have been lucky enough to meet and be friends with some of the biggest names in the world with the likes of Jeff Fenech, Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Shane Warne just to name a few. Every now and then I shake my head and think, ‘Man, this is insane’. I don’t know how I got here, but I’m glad I’m here. I spent a lot of years running from what happened when I was young, and I’ve come to a time in my life where I can face that and feel unafraid.”
All of us have some regrets about our past, but we also have a choice about how this echoes into our future. Richard has filled his own future with light in order to drive out the darkness of his former life.
We can all learn a lesson from his determination to carry this light onward into the lives of others, as well as his own.
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