“26 years of service to children around the world” reads a banner newly hung over the door frame of WACAP’s executive director and CEO, Lillian Thogersen. Honoring her commitment to WACAP, the words also recognize Lillian’s unwavering vision: “That all children have a family that will always be there for them.”
A member of WACAP’s staff since 1986, Lillian was also present at WACAP’s beginning in the mid- 70s, when a close group of adoptive parents identified the need for reliable and comprehensive adoption services in Washington state. (Read more here, “Leading the Way to 10,000”.) Knowing that thousands of orphaned or abandoned children across the globe needed homes, they envisioned WACAP becoming licensed to provide international homestudies (no longer provided by the state) as well as supporting families. WACAP was licensed in 1976 and today finds adoptive families for children worldwide. Guided by the organization’s vision of “A Family for Every Child,” Lillian reminds her staff each day how “over 10,000 children — one child at a time — now have a permanent home.”
On Lillian’s office desk sit the framed pictures of grown sons and daughters, arms draped around their mom. The parent of nine children, eight of whom were adopted from Korea, the United States and Vietnam, Lillian sees the impact of family daily in their smiles. “For me a loving family is the single most important factor in our lives,” she shares. “I have been blessed with a family who gave me unconditional love and perhaps, therefore, cannot conceive of not having someone who will always be there for a child; whether we are 2, 12, 22 or 32 years old, we always need someone who will be there for us.”
When her husband passed away eight years ago, she remembers the feeling that washed over her when all nine of her children moved home for a few weeks. “They took over the planning of the memorial ceremonies, and together we made it through a difficult time that brought us all comfort — and brought us still closer. I cannot imagine a fulfilling life without my family.”
As Lillian has led WACAP in expanding its reach to new countries — most recently to Bulgaria — the importance of family guides her. “To imagine the pain and desperation of a child who has lost not just one but both parents is inconceivable,” Lillian says. “From the beginning WACAP has always had a special focus on the children who are often left behind because of their age or a physical condition. We remain committed to finding families for these children who are often the most disadvantaged and vulnerable.” It’s a commitment backed by a strong community, whose donations, time, dedication and connections make all the difference … and make it possible to reach the children most in need.
Reflecting on WACAP’s impact, Lillian’s inspired by how many children, some grown, now know the comfort and joy of family. And she is stirred by the mission she helped envision: “Adoption changes children’s futures forever, as it does their children and the generations to come after them. To be a part of such transformational work is unbelievably rewarding. With over 143 million orphaned children in the world, there is still much left to do.”