This guest blog post is written by Chris Mace, an adoptive father of three. His two sons, Steven and Kota, were adopted through the Foundation’s Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program.
My husband, Brian and I have always wanted a big family. Our oldest daughter, Eira, joined our family at age 14 while we were stationed at Fort Carson, CO. Eira was born as Alex, but felt that she was in the wrong anatomy. She is also on the autism spectrum. When she joined our family, she was dealing with not only internal identity issues, but she also had difficulty expressing herself. Her autism spectrum disorder prevented her from being able to talk on the phone or even order at a restaurant. About a year after she joined our family, we moved to Hawaii. Eira was able to grow and branch out in amazing ways, and we were able to grow stronger and closer as a family of three.
We then moved to MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, FL. It was here at a small local coffee shop that we decided to grow our family again. After some research, we attended an adoptive parent recruiting seminar with Eckerd Kids where we met a Wendy’s Wonderful Kids recruiter. At the time I didn’t really understand what WWK was but later it became clear just how important and amazing this program is. It was through that connection that we were introduced to the two boys who would soon join our family – Kota and Steven.
Kota was 16 at the time and was in dire need of stability and direction. Our WWK recruiter visited our home regularly and helped make it a smooth transition. She attended every meeting and court date and was in the front row at our adoption finalization. After Kota came home to us, we then met 10-year-old Steven. He had been through so much in his short life. Steven has many medical and developmental issues, but our team believed that we were the right fit. Steven was much younger than Kota when we met, so his needs were greater and his voice smaller. His WWK recruiter ensured that every little thing was taken care of for us so we could focus on his needs.
Today, all three of our children have overcome so much that it is hard to put their victories into words. Eira graduated high school, joined the U.S. Army, medically retired honorably and is now a full-time college student working toward a degree in cyber security. Kota, who came to us with two years of high school, but no credits, is now a senior and has dreams of being a firefighter. Together we are working hard to help him cope with his past, but he is growing, in leaps and bounds, as a person and a man. Steven came to us with an IEP goal to count from 1-5 and identify three colors. Today he is at a second grade level, working on reading. He does math, loves art and dreams of being a ninja. We were able to ween him off his mental illness medication, which has allowed Steven to grow and find himself.
Our kids needed three things: a forever family that would never give up on them, no matter the issue; love; and a second chance. Without the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids recruiters, we would have never found Kota or Steven. They would not have been able to grow and be part of a family that gives them that chance, that love and that security. Words cannot express how thankful we are to this program for helping to make our family whole.