Hello friends! I am so beyond-excited for today's spotlight as it's a deviation from our regular format. An amazing woman named Molly contacted me a couple weeks ago and told me about a little boy named Raphael who is an orphan in Eastern Europe and who has Down Syndrome. Molly is involved with Reece's Rainbow, an international special needs adoption ministry. Each year during the Holidays they have a program called the Angel Tree, where people (like Molly) choose a child and try to help them find their forever family and also raise $1,000 to go toward their adoption. Molly has done this for the past 4 years and has actually helped 3 of those 4 children find their families! How amazing is that? That is what changing the world looks like people. (side note: Molly is one of my new hero's). So when Molly asked me if I'd like to help her spread the word by featuring Raphael, the boy she's sponsoring this year, I jumped at the chance. If my little blog could possibly be a part of finding this beautiful boy a home I would count that as my most important accomplishment to date, next to mothering my own children of course. I am so grateful to my fellow special needs moms and bloggers Reagan and Kelle for linking to this post and spreading the word--so if you're visiting from either of those blobs/blogs welcome! Take a look around and make yourself at home. Without futher ado let's meet Molly and Raphael.
Miggy: Hi Molly! I have to say I'm super-duper excited about this weeks special needs spotlight and about the fact that my little blog could have anything to do with finding this beautiful boy a home. I am thrilled, excited and humbled all at once. First could you tell us a little about Reece's Rainbow and how you came to be associated with them?
Molly: I am SO excited to share about Reece’sRainbow with all of the awesome people who read here, and I’ve loved following the special needs spotlights each week! Reece’s Rainbow is an organization that advocates for international adoptions of kids with Down syndrome and other special needs. What most people don’t realize is that kids with special needs who live in Eastern Europe and other places don’t have any of the same rights that our kids have here. They are often given up at birth because they have Down syndrome, limb differences, HIV, spina bifida, or any host of things that might make them a bit different. Unfortunately, these kids are placed in orphanages until they are 4 or 5 and then transferred to mental institutions where they are warehoused. Many children get no attention, no physical contact, no love. Their lives are drastically shortened because they don’t receive good care, therapy, an education, or any real opportunities to succeed. They’re just sort of locked away. Some never leave their cribs. It’s devastating. (Please don’t stop reading, I promise this has a happy ending and ways you can help!)
I got involved in Reece’s Rainbow because I worked at a summer camp for kids with special needs while I was in college. We had one little boy who was adopted from Russia, and I started wondering what happened to kids like my campers in other countries. A quick google search brought me to Reece’s Rainbow, and once I saw the conditions these kids faced, I was all in! I couldn’t imagine any of the kids I work with living in a crib their whole lives, never getting to do any of the things that make them so happy, and never being able to influence the lives of those they meet.
Miggy: At what point did you start blogging about adoption and special needs kids--how and why did this become so important to you?
Molly: In November of 2009, Reece’s Rainbow got word that a five-year-old boy named Aaron, with arthrogryposis, had been transferred to a mental institution in a remote part of Ukraine. I had just learned about the conditions of mental institutions the week before, and when I saw “Help! I have been transferred!” under his picture, I burst into tears. Here he was, this beautiful blue eyed boy, with a giant grin on his face and LIFE in his eyes. He was being sentenced to life in an institution because his arms and legs don’t bend all the way. I knew that if he stayed in an institution for too long, that life would slowly leave his eyes, and that smile would fade. I just couldn’t get his face out of my head! I was a senior in college, too young to adopt, so I started using social media (my blog is: www.nobabynoblog.blogspot.com) in the hopes that Aaron’s mom would find him! I asked for donations to his grant fund (Reece’s Rainbow creates a grant for each child listed so that the money can go towards helping pay for their adoption) for Christmas and Hanukkah, and I basically begged my friends and family to spread the word. Shortly after New Year’s, Aaron’s family found him! He came home in 2010 to live in Virginia with his mama, papa, and two big brothers. I’ve seen him twice since he has come home, and I marvel at all the things he can do and how much he delights in the world around him. He swam in his first swim meet this past summer, and his mother said there wasn’t a dry eye in the house! To know that I had a small part in helping change the life of this little boy will make me happy forever.
The first photo Molly ever saw of Aaron. Molly and Aaron reunited this past summer.
Miggy: OK, now tell us a little about the Angel Tree program. What is it and how have you been involved in the past? Do you have any success stories to share?
Molly: The Angel Tree is a fundraiser for our waiting children with Down syndrome where for a donation of at least $35 to any child on the tree, you get an ornament for your Christmas tree (or anywhere else you want to put it!) with their picture on it. This year, we even got to add some kids with HIV or other special needs to the tree! People can sign up to be an Angel Tree Warrior for a specific child, which means that they try to raise $1,000 and spread the word in the hopes that their child will find his or her family, so that is what I am doing for a little boy named Raphael!
As for success stories: this is my fourth year as an angel tree warrior and three out of my four warrior kiddos are home with their families!! Overall, Reece’sRainbow has helped over 850 children come home to their forever families in the past six years! We’ve had a few Reece’s Rainbow reunions and it’s amazing to see all of these kids running and playing together.
Miggy: This year you've chosen to sponsor Raphael. He is simply beautiful. My heart melts for his innate preciousness and aches for him to have a family at the same time. Please tell us about Raphael.
Molly: Isn’t he just the cutest? I don’t know much about him other than the information that Reece’s Rainbow has, but I do know that he is 3 ½ years old and he has Down syndrome. Based on the pictures we have, Raphael can stand on his own, and he likes to play! I know that he is in an orphanage in Eastern Europe, but is in danger of being transferred to a mental institution soon. That’s what breaks my heart. Raphael has big brown eyes, an impish grin, and cheeks that were made for kisses from a mama. He deserves love.
Miggy: If there is a family out there who is reading this and who is interested in finding out more information on Raphael and adoption who should they contact and how?
Molly: Check out the Reece’s Rainbow website! There is information for new families, adoption requirements, and an FAQ tab on the website that says “How To Adopt.” Interested families can also email Andrea@reecesrainbow.org. We even have a few kids who have grants to cover their entire adoption, all they need is a family!
Miggy: For my readers who are not interested in adoption but still want to help Raphael or other special needs children awaiting adoption, what can they do?
Molly: There are a ton of things people can do to help orphans with special needs. It seems like there are so many orphans in the world that it is impossible to help them all, but Reece’s Rainbow makes it easy to make a difference for one child or one family. The biggest two are donating money and spreading the word. International adoption is expensive, and can be between $20,000- $30,000 to bring a child home. Reece’s Rainbow has grants set up for individual children who are waiting to be adopted, as well as families who are bringing a child home. The best thing to do is to share the stories of the kids who are in need of families. The more people hear what the conditions of the institutions are like, the more they can put a face to the plight, the more likely kids are to get adopted! Raphael’s grant fund can be found here and you can view all the children on the angel tree here.
Miggy: Is there anything else you'd like to share about Raphael, adoption, or Reece's Rainbow?
Molly: These children have no voice where they are. They desperately need us to be their voice, because we understand the potential of children with special needs. They deserve a chance, just like our kids get here! The best feeling in the world is holding a child who used to be an orphan, and seeing how far they have come. I’ve gotten to snuggle many former orphans and it never gets old! Thank you SO much for allowing me to share Raphael and Reece’s Rainbow with your fantastic readers! My dream is that one day you can do a SNS on the family that adopts Raphael!
Me too Molly, me too! I can't wait for that spotlight. My heart is filled with love for these precious children and my heart is filled with love and gratitude for people like Molly. From now on, I'm going to refer to her as Saint Molly.
Saint Molly, I am in awe of you and your example. Thank you for using your life for good.
You know what I love? I love knowing that there is a little boy somewhere in Eastern Europe who has no idea how many people are reading about him, thinking about him and pulling for him right at this very moment. Go Raphael! If there is one thing I know it's this--every life is precious and every life has purpose. We can easily raise $1,000 for Raphael right? To donate money to Raphel's Angel Tree fund go here. (I just made my donation! Right now his Angel Tree donation is at $162.00--let's get that number climbing!) If you can, please donate to help our spotlightee Raphael! And even more important if you or someone you know is interested in adopting a child with special needs, even Raphael, please contact Reece's Rainbow for more information or email Andrea@reecesrainbow.org.
To learn more about Molly and the work she's doing check out her blog No Baby, No Blog.
As always if you or someone you know would like to be a part of the special needs spotlight series please email me at thislittlemiggy at gmail dot com.
Have a great weekend!