There’s this remarkable story…
A few stories actually.
They all impact each other and come together in the end.
Story #1 – About 56 (I think) years ago John K. became the big brother to a delightful little girl named Shirley. Shirley has Down Syndrome. I don’t know all the ups and downs of that sibling relationship but I do know that there is a lot of love shared between the two.
More than twenty years later John met and married Mary Ellen. She had had a little bit of experience with people with disabilities before meeting John and shared his love for differently abled people. Their passion for people with special needs grew and after having three birth daughters they began fostering and eventually adopted 4 children from the foster system. Two of them have Down Syndrome!
About 6 years ago they decided it was time to adopt one more child with DS and brought Aiden home from Bulgaria! He is a big wonderfully comedic 14 year old boy now with the best Bulgarian accent you will ever hear.
Story #2 – My husband Jon met the K family about fifteen years ago when their first adopted child with DS, Brent, was about 3. He remembers playing with and loving him at church each Sunday. They were good buddies. After high school Jon decided to volunteer with the K family at camp Amasa where they ran camps for adults and children with special needs. This was his crash course into the community of the differently abled. He can tell you many hilarious, life changing, perspective altering moments from that summer.
Story #3 – I had always been drawn to supporting, teaching and befriending people with special needs. My mom remembers it as young as 5 years old. When I was 16 my mom made the decision to bring Maggy in to our house. Maggy has Down Syndrome as well and fit in to our family perfectly. She actually could be credited with getting most of us through our teen years relatively unharmed. No matter how mad we where at the world or each other, we were never mad at her. She kept us coming home and was a calming spirit in our house. She is everyones favourite sister. When she joined our family I started talking about wanting to adopt my own child with DS.
Our stories coming together –
Jon and I met in college and started dating about 12 years ago. I remember talking openly about wanting to adopt a child with DS and him being completely on board. His work with Amasa and watching the K family grow had prepared him for me!
We followed closely and watched the K family adopt Aiden. I was so happy for them and wondered when it would be our turn. Aiden came home in October 2009 and in January 2010 Mary Ellen sent me an email from her agency for a file of a little girl needing a family. We didn’t end up adopting that child but it got our wheels turning.
It was time for us to adopt a child with DS. Jon and I jumped in. Although it was much earlier in life than we had thought it was the right choice. We have been so blessed by the adoption process and by Sofie, our own Bulgarian angel. In August 2011 we brought her home.
Story #4 – John and Mary Ellen’s oldest daughter, Heather, has known for a long time that she would adopt a child with DS too. My Jon was in youth with her and worked with her at the camps. We have been honoured to walk with her and try to support her in any way we could. She also chose Bulgaria to find her son. And yesterday, her own dreams came true.
Heather became a mom to Wyatt Timothy Vasil K and brought him home after more than 24 hours of traveling yesterday! (His middle name, Timothy, is after Jon’s dad who passed away 6.5 years ago. He was the K’s pastor as Heather grew up and encouraged her, reminding her she would make a difference.)
I got the privilege of being their chauffeur between the airport and ferry, as well as photographer for this momentous occasion! Here are the pictures from last night…