Hayim Cohen of Houston, Texas, has adopted six children since 2012. Cohen’s most recent adoption was finalized in early January 2017.
“I get asked often ‘How did you end up with six?’” Cohen said. “It’s hard to say no. How could you say ‘no’ to these children?”
The Cohen family is both an adoptive family and a foster family. Cohen and his children are Hasidic Jews, and Cohen hopes to provide a home where the children can keep their faith and culture.
“When we bring foster kids in, it makes me feel like not every kid is going to be in a home with a thousand kids,” said Avshalom, one of Hayim’s adopted sons.
Hayim hopes his story of fostering and adopting children will inspire others to make a difference in their local communities.
“Everybody always says, ‘I want to do something to help.’ The first step is to look into the foster care system,” he said.
The Cohens are still unsure how big their family will grow. When asked if he would like his father to adopt more kids, Avshalom said, “Yes. Definitely.”
“We have to put light into this world and I believe that these children are lights,” Cohen said.
Jennifer Doering, a mother living in Wisconsin, was struggling to find a unique Christmas present for her adopted daughter, Audrey, when she made quite the discovery: Audrey has a twin sister. Doering had been going through some newspapers from when Audrey was adopted when she found two separate finding ads which were put in the paper around the time the girls were adopted.
“We just happened to stumble upon an extra picture, and from there, we were able to find that there were two of them,” Doering said. “She’s always wanted a sister.”
Audrey and her sister, Gracie Rainsberry, were separated at fifteen months old when they were adopted by two different families in the United States. Audrey lives in Wisconsin while Gracie lives in Washington.
Since reuniting, the twins have talked via FaceTime often.
“Our laugh is the same, our mannerisms. We talk the same,” said Audrey. The girls also like the same foods and both have had cardiac defects that have required open-heart surgery.
The Doering and Rainsberry families plan on spending time together in 2017. The twins plan to spend spring break in California and Audrey hopes to visit her sister in Washington next summer.
Trick-or-treating is difficult for children with allergies to nuts, chocolate, or milk. Fortunately, there is a movement called the Teal Pumpkin Project that can help make Halloween safe for the 6 million children who suffer from food allergies.
The Teal Pumpkin Project began as an allergy awareness project run by the Food Allergy Community of East Tennessee. The organization, Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), launched the national program in 2014. It has since grown into a worldwide movement, spanning all 50 states and 14 countries. The initiative also helps children with diabetes and other dietary conditions.
Anyone can participate in the project through two simple requirements. First, participants must place a teal pumpkin outside their doors or hang up a sign explaining what the project is. The sign is available on FARE’s website. Second, participants must provide a non-food treat for trick-or-treaters with allergies. Common non-food alternatives include glow sticks, stickers, bubbles and novelty toys.
Miranda Andrew, a resident of Rapid City, South Dakota, has joined the project. “The majority of the candy we collected my son couldn’t have because of his food allergies,” she said. “Then we found out that there was a way to recognize which houses have something that was safe and we definitely wanted to be one of those houses for kids, too.”
Many parents see the importance of the Teal Pumpkin Project. Some have used this initiative to teach their children about allergies and empathy by asking them to imagine what it is like to have a food allergy. “This is a great way to include all children in the Halloween festivities,” one parent said.
Fathers gathered at schools across the Jackson Public School District in Mississippi to cheer on students as they arrived to take standardized exams. The fathers high-fived students, cheering and sharing words of encouragement to boost students’ morale.
The event, “WATCH D.O.G.S. Support Scholars Test Rally,” was organized by the national WATCH D.O.G.S program which aims to get fathers more involved in their children’s education and safety.
Fredrick Nolan, the school district’s coordinator for the program, explained that the presence of the fathers motivates students.
“Sometimes, just knowing that others care about the success of our scholars is the motivation they need to cross the finish line into academic achievement,” Nolan said.
Fathers, grandfathers, uncles, step-fathers, father-figures, and other men in the community participated to show support for the students’ education.
At McWillie Elementary School, fathers formed a tunnel, high-fiving and fist-bumping students as they walked into the school.
Not only were the students encouraged, the fathers felt more involved and learned about the their students’ progress.
“It was a great atmosphere,” Nolan. “It’s amazing how men will rally around a common cause and that morning it was about our children.”
When an oncoming car hit Laura Palmeter one year ago on her way to work, firefighters had to labor for an hour to cut her from her totaled car. At OHSU, doctors fought to keep her alive despite multiple fractures and muscle fiber necrosis. But Laura wasn’t the only one fighting for life: inside her, a little baby was fighting too.
Doctors said Laura’s growing baby girl had a 10% chance of surviving after the crash. They encouraged her to abort, but Laura and her husband Chris refused.
“They chose their words very carefully and never said abortion,” said Laura. “They stated her odds of living, challenges she would face and then listed off how it would be better for me.”
Though the couple was well informed of the risks the baby faced, including possible x-ray-induced cancer, they soldiered on, determined to save their child. Laura even avoided pain medication in order to protect her daughter. After two months, the hard work paid off.
On December 1st, 2014, Aria Palmeter entered the world in mint-perfect condition. While the family still has much to do to regain stability, they are grateful for the support of the community and their family. Laura is facing several more surgeries, but she finds strength in her new daughter: “Hearing the doctor speak shattered my heart in ways I never thought possible. My baby was going to live! She had to! I would not have survived if she did not.”
To support the Palmeter family, visit their Gofundme page here.