For Brooke and Richard Henningfeld, a grant from the Gift of Adoption Fund meant that they could complete the process of welcoming another child into their home and family. For their son Reid, then a 6-year-old living in a Chinese orphanage, it meant a chance for a new life — and, perhaps, even life itself.
The Delavan couple — who had adopted three other children from China and Ethiopia before Reid — had worked hard to raise the funds needed to bring Reid here. And, through a combination of other grants, fundraisers, individual gifts and working “side jobs,” they had managed to pull together most of the more than $25,000 cost of adopting another child from China, said Brooke, who had been a stay-at-home mom since the adoption of their twin sons from Ethiopia in 2009.
They still needed money for travel expenses to bring Reid to Wisconsin, though, and the $3,500 grant they received from Gift of Adoption covered those costs, Brooke Henningfeld said. There were times she and her husband weren’t sure they were going to be able to bring home the little boy who had “tugged at my heartstrings” since seeing him in a video in 2011.
Reid not only had a smile she couldn’t resist, but Henningfeld said she knew that as an older boy with special needs, his chances of being placed with a family were not good. He had been on lists of five adoption agencies for some time, she said, and was still waiting for a family when she returned from China after adopting their daughter there in 2012.
The Gift of Adoption grant allowed the Henningfelds — who also have three biological sons — to be that family for Reid. And, as part of that family, Reid has access to the medical care he needs in Milwaukee, Henningfeld said. “Children with his condition might not make it in China,” she said.
“Our son is a blessing to us and we are forever grateful to Gift of Adoption, and to all those who support the organization. They are helping to change lives and many adoptive families could not do it without organizations like them.”
The Henningfelds were the 1,000th family to receive such a grant from Gift of Adoption, a national charitable organization that inspires adoption by providing grants to qualified parents, giving children who need families a permanent home and a chance to thrive. Founded by Grafton residents Gene and Lucy Wyka in 1996, the organization started out as a private family foundation with a simple goal of helping others adopt. As adoptive parents themselves, the Wykas felt grateful to be able to afford the adoption process and wanted to help others do so, according to the Gift of Adoption website.
By 2001, the demand for grants had become so overwhelming that the Wykas converted the foundation to a public charity. Since its inception, The Gift of Adoption Fund has awarded more than $3.4 million in adoption assistance grants, helping change the lives of more than 1,200 children. GOA’s Wisconsin Chapter, started in 2002, has awarded more than $335,000 to complete adoptions for more than 125 children.
The national organization, which moved its Port Washington headquarters to the Chicago area in 2007, prioritizes grants for those adopting the most vulnerable children, facing what is likely their last or only chance at adoption. Grants are awarded in amounts up to $7,500, to families regardless of race, religion, age or marital status, according to GOA.
Gift of Adoption’s mission is one that Fox Point resident Chris Schifano, who was recently named to its national board of directors, said he is delighted to serve. Schifano — a senior vice president with The Private Client Reserve of U.S. Bank, and an adoptive parent — said he not only looks forward to working with the fund’s finance committee, but to getting out in the community and sharing GOA’s message.
“I want people to know we are out here, and we are looking to grow,” Schifano said.
How to help
Even those who cannot open their homes to an adoptive child can help transform children’s lives by giving time or financial support to the Gift of Adoption Fund. A variety of volunteer opportunities are available with the organization, and even small contributions can make a difference. For more information, go to www.giftofadoption.org.