Honoring Children and Families Who Give

Three stories of families who worked together with their children to raise funds for vulnerable children and families in Holt’s programs overseas.

From a Little Idea…

by Abby Gouldsbarry, Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania

A.K.Dive has grown to be something I never expected it to be back in 2007, when I first came up with the idea.  The whole game plan wasn’t the same back then, though.  It was something totally different.

But before I tell you how it came to be, first I need to tell you what it is. A.K.Dive is a fundraising event with food, face painting, games, music and fellowship, and all the proceeds go towards adoptions or adoption organizations.  It’s a really fun evening, and every year, friends, family and church members ask about it and look forward to it.

I was 7 when I thought of A.K.Dive — and at that age, when I had an idea, I took it to the top.  So when I saw the idea to open up a lemonade stand, it eventually turned into opening a restaurant…in our home.  Remember, I was 7 at the time. 🙂

My mom and dad thought we were playing, but we weren’t.  My little kid brain was fixed on selling breakfast, lunch and dinner at a little diner that we (my friends and I, along with my lil’ sis) had named “A.K.Dive.”  A for my name, Abby, K for my good friend’s name, Katie, and the capital D in Dive for my lil’ sis, Danelle.  My dad came up with the whole Dive thing.

Anyway, one day my mom understood that we actually weren’t playing, and explained that we could not open a real restaurant in our house.  My friends, sister and I were heartbroken, but then my mom had an ingenious idea.  Instead of opening a restaurant, we would have a little diner at our house (more of a picnic), with friends and family, and us kids would head up the whole thing (with a lot of help, believe me!).  It was a dream come true for us, and the night was a blast!  We decided to raise money for an organization that helps to fund adoptions and orphans. People would come for food and fellowship and donate whatever they wanted.

Because of A.K.Dive, my family was turned toward the realization of the plight of orphans.  Our hearts stirred and our eyes were opened as the Lord called us to adopt a child.  We decided to go through this process with Holt, and it was an amazing journey.  Mom and Dad traveled to China to bring home our new brother in January of 2011.  When A.K.Dive came around that summer, it was without question that we wanted to raise money for Holt, and we chose the special needs fund, since my brother Hudson most likely was supported through that fund.   We had a wonderful time that night, and raised over $3,500!  Faces were painted, and many laughs were heard.  Nothing beats a good night with lots of fellowship!

Over the course of the past six years, we have raised around $10,000 for adoption-related organizations/families (including Holt families).  A.K.Dive has blessed my life in many ways.  Besides giving me the brother I had for years been praying for, it has given me a love for orphans, a love for helping others in need, and has shown me what a little idea can turn into.


Abby (age 13)

Because Someone Saved Me…

by Barbara Palomino deVelasco, Bogart, Georgia

Our daughter, Mei Hui, which means “beautiful wisdom,” was a gift!  My husband and I always knew we wanted to adopt a child with special needs. We both just knew we were able to care for a child who needed our love and special care.  We are sometimes asked why we wanted to adopt a child that would require so much medical care, and truthfully, the only answer we have is that God had a plan and we chose to follow His path.

The deVelasco family.

Our path began when, one day — out of the blue — my cousin called to tell me about Oprah’s special about girls abandoned in China as a result of the one-child policy — China’s Lost Girls.  She told me she would also be adopting a child even though she had four children of her own.  The road was paved.

Mei Hui came into our lives as the most amazing blessing! We honestly wake every single day and thank God for the gift of simply going to wake her up and see her smile!  We actually wonder and have discussed repeatedly if those blessed with having children of their own also wake up EVERY single day and think God is amazing in their child’s eyes.  Mei Hui has overcome so much — her heart condition has already required one open heart surgery and will require another in the future. She has also come to accept that she likely won’t ever meet her birth parents, who chose to help save her life.

We started celebrating Mei Hui’s adoption anniversary on our first year together as a family. We organized a party, invited friends and family, and called it “Celebrating Family.”   I remember some of our friends asked us why we would make her adoption celebration so public.  I never truly had an answer, but we believe God had a plan and it may have been to raise money to help other children. We did just that.   We are blessed in so many ways and helping other children is what God has led us to. Mei Hui’s donations have always gone to help children with special medical needs in China, like her.

In the five years since we brought Mei Hui home from China — on August 24, 2007 — we have raised money for children in Holt’s care on every one of Mei Hui’s anniversaries. Last year, Mei Hui was 6 years old and was an integral part of setting up the donations box during her anniversary celebration.

Fast forward to this year, Mei Hui is now 7 years old. This year, I asked her before we started planning her celebration if she wanted to continue sharing her adoption experience so publicly with others.  It was obvious she was seriously considering it, and her choice was to celebrate it openly.  It was a joyous occasion at the roller skating rink with her friends.  Again, Mei Hui chose not to accept any gifts, but rather to receive donations to help other children like her with special needs.

While raising money for Holt may have started with me, even at 7, she recognizes why we strive to help other children — and she chooses to continue our tradition. I know that she embraces adoption and those like her with special needs.  But rather than write on her behalf, I chose to let her write in her own words why she chooses to make a difference. And then I took a picture…

Girl holding up schoolwork

Mei Hui humbles me every day!

 What Christmas is All About…

Last December, our fundraising staff at Holt received a special card in the mail. Made of construction paper, it featured a neatly drawn camel on the cover with the North Star glowing in the upper right-hand corner. “O come let us adore him…,” read the hand-written inscription at the top. Inside, it read:

Dear Holt Agency,

Thank you for helping my grandparents adopt my Mom. I would not be here today if she was not adopted. For Christmas this year, my cousins and I are donating money we would have spent on each other. We hope this will help your orphanages so that other children can be adopted.


The Mary Ann Smith Family (Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.A.)

Several family members also signed the card at the bottom, including Sonia Smith, who wrote her own little message. “Thank you,” she wrote, “I was adopted into an amazing family.”

Enclosed with the card was a return form from Holt for the 2012 President’s Top Priority Fund, and a check for $232.48 for Holt’s programs in North Korea, South Korea, China and Ethiopia.

“I wanted them to know that number one, giving is what Christmas is all about and that there are children in the world who don’t have anything,” explains Mary Ann Smith, who came up with the idea for her grandkids to donate to Holt in lieu of Christmas gifts to each other. “Some of my grandkids really caught onto that and loved the idea and raised some money.”

On the back of the card they sent to Holt, each of Mary Ann’s children and grandchildren wrote their name and the amount they contributed. The list of names took two columns. “We adopted three Korean daughters through Holt, and five other children through various other places,” says Mary Ann, who began building her family with her late husband in 1972. Today, Mary Ann has 19 living grandchildren.

For a long time, Mary Ann sent regular donations for children and families in Holt’s programs overseas. “We knew the money would be used well,” she says. Last year was the first time she involved her many grandchildren, whose lives had all been touched by adoption and Holt’s work caring for orphaned, abandoned and vulnerable children.

An older photo of the Smiths, with all their eight adopted children and several grandchildren. Mary Ann sits in the center with her late husband, Dick.

“We have tried other things over the years,” says Mary Ann of other fundraising projects she’s initiated. “But the kids really liked this one because I sent them pictures of children via the Internet and that touched some of their hearts to see children they were possibly helping.” She shared pictures of children on Holt’s website — many of them from the specific country programs that the Smith family decided to support.

Mary Ann’s children, all grown, also felt moved by her Christmas fundraiser — especially her daughter, Camille, who the Smiths adopted from Korea. “Camille really was touched by this idea,” she says. The fundraiser provided an opportunity for Camille to talk to her kids about her adoption — including her then 11-year-old daughter, Mimi, who drew the darling camel picture on the card. For Camille, it created a powerful way to convey to Mimi and her other children that “she was at one time one of those kids that needed a home.”

On Christmas Eve, Mary Ann displayed a special slideshow for her family, featuring large-scale images of children Holt serves in countries around the world. The presentation reinforced for her family why they gave up some of their own Christmas presents, and it affected everyone in the room. “That was very real for them,” says Mary Ann. Some of her grandchildren continue to pray for children growing up without safe, loving homes.

To Mary Ann, the Christmas fundraiser was a success — with each grandchild giving anywhere from $4 to more than $30.  But how much they gave wasn’t really the point. As Mary Ann says, “I wanted them to see what little they could save and give could help make a difference for another child.”

Little girl holding a baby chick

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