Like One Giant Family

In November, Holt held our annual gala and dinner auction in Portland. All proceeds went to support Korea programs.

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If Korea was the cause, then family was the theme. In November, Holt held our annual gala and dinner auction in Portland, where local families, adoptees, supporters and staff gathered to celebrate adoption and raise funds for orphaned, abandoned and vulnerable children. Proceeds from this year’s Portland auction went to support Korea programs.

A silent auction kicks off the night with tables of bid-able knick-knacks and local spa packages, cultural art and hand-crafted toys — items that celebrate the three obvious points of the night: children, Portland and Korean culture. Families enter the room together, and quickly scatter. Meeting a new Holt staff member, Clay Henderson, vice chair of the Holt board of directors, points around the room, identifying the members of his family. He points out his son, Alex, one of his five biological children, and his daughter, one of five adopted children, who wanders the room in a gold, sparkly dress selling raffle tickets. “My wife likes to come to these events,” Clay says with a smile. Jokingly, he adds, “She likes to spend the money.”  As if on cue, another of Clay’s daughters appears behind Clay in a long red dress. “I convinced mom to bid on a rice cooker,” she laughs.

Clay Hendersen with his wife during the silent auction

Clay and Shila Henderson pose for a picture during the silent auction.

Clay‘s family is one of many here tonight whose lives have been touched, changed and blessed by adoption. While money raised at the event will benefit Holt’s programs in Korea, the adoptees in the room represent many of the countries where Holt works — Ethiopia, India, China and the Philippines, to name a few.

Another one of Clay’s children is locked in a hug with Susan Soonkeum Cox, a woman whose name has, over the past three decades, become virtually synonymous with Holt and international adoption. Adopted from Korea in 1956, Susan also has more than 30 years of experience working for Holt. She’s an important part of the Holt family —  a group of people who aren’t related by blood, but support each other as if they were. It’s made up of adoptive parents, adoptees — some who came home when Holt first began, and some who arrived in the last year — donors, child sponsors, supporters, ambassadors, staff and friends. Also within the extended Holt family are children in care overseas, families growing stronger in Holt’s family strengthening programs, and people who dedicate their lives to helping fulfill the mission of Harry and Bertha Holt — ensuring every child can grow and thrive in a loving family.

One of Clay Henderson's daughters — one of his ten children — bids during the auction.

One of Clay Henderson’s daughters — one of his ten children — bids during the auction.

As families take their seats, Holt President and CEO Phillip Littleton introduces the president of Holt Korea to some of his friends.

Friends like Cindy Bigelow, a Holt adoptive mom and board member. Tonight is Cindy’s last night formally serving Holt, and though she’s doing a good job of smiling, you can see it’s an emotional evening. The entire board is present, and they stand to be recognized for their service just as salad is served and waiters carry out dinner plates of steak and mashed potatoes. “What are you going to miss?” I ask. She pauses for a moment, her eyes glazing over as she knowingly pulls the answer straight from her heart. “The families,” she says. “It’s all the stories. The families have the best stories.”

Cindy Bigelow bids during the silent auction. The evening of the Portland Gala and Auction marked Cindy's last day as a Holt board member.

Cindy Bigelow bids during the silent auction. The evening of the Portland Gala and Auction marked Cindy’s last day as a Holt board member.

Karyn Williams holds up a cake for the auctioneer.

Karyn Williams holds up a cake for the auctioneer.

Many of the cakes sold at the live auction for more than $1,000. All the proceeds benefit Holt's programs in Korea.

Many of the cakes sold at the live auction for more than $1,000. All the proceeds benefit Holt’s programs in Korea.

A bidding game brings roars of laughter.

A bidding game brings roars of laughter.

The event's hosts, Karyn Williams and Brian White, sing Brian's hit song.

The event’s hosts, Karyn Williams and Brian White, sing Brian’s hit song.

 

The auctioneer interrupts us as he and the emcees for the night, Christian music star and adoption advocate Karyn Williams and her country songwriter husband Brian White, begin rattling off auction items. Cakes spark bidding wars passionate enough to send the price over a thousand bucks. Children squeal with delight when their families are the highest bidders for vacations to Hawaii or Disneyland. Guests begin impromptu bidding to convince Brian White to sing his 2007 country music chart-topper, “Watching You.” Brian White also brought in $600 for Holt, just by signing the tune he wrote for Rodney Atkins.

Just as it seems the entire room has tears of laughter rolling down their cheeks from a bidding game that humorously forces guests to pose with their hands on their heads or on their hips, an emotional video about Harry and Bertha’s humble beginnings in Korea — and Holt’s work with children there now — brings tears of a different kind across the room. While many people in attendance are here to celebrate the ways adoption has transformed their family, it is impossible to ignore the continuing need among orphaned, abandoned and vulnerable children in Korea – especially those with special needs, many of whom are cared for at Holt’s historic Ilsan Center.

In a final, powerful moment, all of the adoptees in the room stand to be recognized. Someone rises to his or her feet at nearly every table, and the room falls silent, perhaps for the first time that night, to marvel at the visual. By the end of the event, adoptees who began the night as strangers embraced and shared stories — like one, giant family.

All the Holt adoptees present at the Portland event gather for a picture at the end of the night.

All the Holt adoptees present at the Portland event gather for a picture at the end of the night.

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Board member stands to be recognized for his service.

A board member stands to be recognized for his service.

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Billie Loewen | Staff Writer

For more information on Holt galas and events, click here.

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