WACAP’s President and CEO Lillian Thogersen recently shared this letter reflecting on the close of summer and the continuing blessing of family.
I am astonished …
This word, often one used to convey shock, is really defined as this: “to be filled up with sudden and overpowering surprise or wonder.” If there is one thing I have been able to count on over my 38 years with WACAP, it’s that every day, surprise and wonder will find me, wherever I am. This summer has been no exception.
As the summer came to a close, the past month brought several WACAP family events, one event in the Midwest and two near WACAP’s headquarters in the Pacific Northwest. A few weeks ago, nearly 100 parents and kids attended our very first Midwest Family Fun Day event at Retzer Nature Center in Wisconsin! In Central Washington, over 250 people attended our annual Family Camp in Sun Lakes, and almost 500 people registered for Family Fun Day with the Tacoma Rainiers — one of Seattle’s minor league baseball teams — generously sponsored by Wizards of Coast.
So, why astonished?
Sometimes, for the simplest of reasons: Seeing the photos of the kids who have joined their families smiling and playing together at the Retzer Nature Center. Families learning about the connections they share. Listening to a teenager describe the week he spent at Family Camp — a whole week with his whole family — as magical.
And it’s stories like Huan Huan’s:
At this month’s Family Fun Day at Cheney Stadium, Huan Huan was the young man who, on behalf of WACAP, threw out the ceremonial first pitch of the game.
Adopted at age 13, he became an American citizen in January when his mom adopted him from Shuyang, China. Like many kids, passed by because of their age, Huan Huan, also born with limb differences, waited a childhood to be adopted. WACAP didn’t give up on him … knowing what another passing year would mean. At age 14, he would become too old for adoption, based on his country’s age limit.
Though he was an athletic child and used a crutch for ambulation, Huan Huan shared that in his orphanage, he hadn’t ever participated in any kind of sports or P.E. classes, and even on the playground, never had a lot of opportunity to do much on his own.
On this August Sunday though, Huan Huan entered the baseball field — surrounded by fans and cheered by his mom, brother, sister, and hundreds of WACAP families. He sought out the eyes of the catcher from the mound, raised him arm high, and skillfully threw the ball.
It wasn’t his first throw … That’s because, after just seven months home, Huan Huan has learned to play baseball, joining a league, loving the game, and finding he can not only throw but “almost literally fly around the diamond,” says his mom.
The child who at age 13 had never participated in sports of any kind, has also gone bowling, hiking, swimming … and the list continues.
Though I witness daily how incredible the love of a family is, I am caught again by surprise, as I see in action what a difference a family makes. When a child WACAP won’t give up on comes home, or when I meet a young man or woman who has grown up with a family’s support, I am amazed. And repeatedly, I am overjoyed, when I talk to another family who has seen first, not the limitations that can accompany a medical diagnosis, but rather the great potential of the daughter or son they’re welcoming home.
So, I am astonished. Week after week, filled — filled up — with wonder.