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Children's Stories for Children's Charities.

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I have been so blessed on this journey of life, and one of my many blessings is the gift of gratitude. I try to not let a day go by without thanking the Lord for all I've been given, and for a long while I'd been looking for a way to give back more. Then a few years ago someone in my family decided to adopt. Their experience opened my eyes to wondrous possibilities.

I'll let Nonna Jeanne tell you their story:

As my daughter and son-in-law traveled on their journey toward adoption, they met a woman who'd adopted an older boy from an orphanage in St. Petersburg, Russia. She was overwhelmed by the enormous number of older kids waiting to be adopted there. They're future was bleak. She knew that an extremely large percentage would end up on the street, or into drugs, or even worse.

So when she returned home, she made it her mission to become an emissary for that orphanage, vowing to help place as many older kids as she could. In the short year and a half before she and my daughter met, she had already placed 22 kids in her local community.

When she began her search to fulfill my family's dream, she strictly adhered to the application they had submitted - a healthy 3 or 4 year old. One day, however, she sat looking at 3 siblings, ages 7, 9, and 11. She immediately felt that they were meant for my daughter and son-in-law, even though they were much older than requested and there were 3 kids instead of 1. She held onto the photo for 2 weeks before finally emailing it to my son-in-law at work.

Upon opening the photo he felt right away that this was his family. Since my daughter hadn't seen the photo yet, he emailed it to her without much comment, not wanting to get her hopes up or put undue pressure on her. When she saw the picture, she knew in an instant, that those were her kids. Since Bill had made no comment, she called him right away and was overjoyed that he had felt exactly the same way. These were their kids!

It would be a couple of months before they were allowed to make their first trip to Russia. In the meantime, photo albums were put together for the kids, showing their new parents, pets, new home, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. These albums were brought to the kids by other prospective parents who were making the trip before my family was allowed to go.

When the time for their first trip to Russia arrived, excitement was high. They were told that the kids were waiting for them in the Recreation room which was down a couple of corridors. They were warned not to get too excited or to expect too much, because the kids were nervous and would probably be very shy.

So they started down the corridor, trying to keep their enthusiasm in check, when all of a sudden the kids came around the far corner, and they all saw each other for the first time. Because of the albums, the kids recognized them right away, their little faces immediately transformed to bright, glowing smiles, as they ran down the hall calling "Mama, Papa", and right into the arms of their new family.

It was another grueling 6 months until they could get a court date to go back for the final adoption in Moscow. I was lucky enough to be able to be there when they came home, and so was my mom. Quite a day!
When we took them to a super market for the first time, the kids were overwhelmed and speechless. But it wasn't the junk food, or aisles of canned goods that stunned them. It was all the fresh fruits and vegetables. They couldn't believe they weren't dreaming.

What a humbling experience it was to realize how much we simply take for granted, and what a joyous experience it was to know that my adorable new grandkids never would.
About six months later we went out to visit the kids for their first Christmas in America. When the kids had arrived in this country, they were malnourished and small for their ages. After only six months, they had filled out and grew between 2 and 3 inches. In just six months! They now had good food, nice clothes, a beautiful home, great medical care, and toys that they never knew existed; yet when I asked them what they liked best about being in America, they all said at once, and without hesitation, "Family". That's when I knew that this was one of the ways I wanted to give back.
What better way to change the world than one young soul (or 3) at a time. Whether it be by helping children to be adopted, helping children's medical centers, or supporting research for life-threatening children's illnesses, I'd found my path.

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