At the young age of four, Jeremiah was placed in the foster care system, where he lived for the next six years dreaming of one day finding a loving family he always longed for. Jeremiah’s life turned around when he joined Kidsave’s Weekend Miracles program. He even participated in A&E’s series, “The Day I Picked My Parents.” And while Jeremiah looked for a loving family, Sam and Milton Gilstrap searched for a way to welcome a child into their lives.

Two worlds collided at one of Kidsave’s weekend advocacy events. “Little did we know that we’d meet the most amazing little guy in the world on our very first Kidsave event,” recalls Sam. It was at a bowling alley in downtown Los Angeles. Before the bowling games began, kids and adults mingled around board games. Sam and Milton stopped by a table and began to play a game of Connect Four. Their opponent was none other than Jeremiah. “It was like love at first sight,” recalls Sam. “We were ready right then and there to adopt him. We wanted him to become part of our family,” says Sam. Their first thoughts were of disbelief. Why was this adorable child here? How had he not already been ‘snatched up’ by another family?

“Looking back, it seems that sometimes some things are just meant to be, and when you are fortunate enough to make that kind of meaningful connection with another human being, you have to take full advantage of it,” says Sam.

Sam and Milton continued to get to know Jeremiah during Kidsave events until just a few months later, in May of 2019, Jeremiah moved into their home full time. “At that point, we became a family,” says Sam. “We spent every day together.” Sam and Milton favored spending their free time playing outdoors and hiking, as well as coming up with new family traditions with Jeremiah.

“It had been a couple of months, and everything is as wonderful as we’d dreamed it would be,” said Sam. “He’s an amazing kid and fits in so nicely with our family.” One of the biggest surprises Sam and Milton discovered were their parenting techniques and how well they work together. Sam considers himself to be more of a “taskmaster,” while Milton is more of the “warm and fuzzy” type.

After 14 months in the program and a year and a half since Jeremiah met Sam and Milton, Jeremiah accepted Sam and Milton’s adoption plans. Sam and Milton could not be more excited to share their exciting news with the Kidsave team. “The stars aligned for our family, and Kidsave has become kind of a second family,” said Sam. “Kidsave will be there for you throughout the process and will celebrate with you when your adoption is finalized.”

In the spirit of new beginnings, Jeremiah legally changed his name to Andreas, leaving Jeremiah and his time in foster care in the past. “There will be no more social workers, no more courts, no more therapists, and no more bouncing from home to home,” Sam and Milton explained to Andreas. “From now on, it’s all about all of us spending time together, you, your friends, and school. We’re a regular family.” The Gilstrap family was now complete and ready to begin planting new roots. “We really can’t imagine our lives without him anymore,” expressed Sam and Milton.

Now that Sam and Milton are parents to Andreas, they want only the best for him and his future. They have tweaked their parenting techniques in ways that have surprised them. “We have ended up switching our roles and learning from one another how to be the best parents we can be to Andreas,” says Sam. “Our number one rule in the house is to have respect for each other and others.”

With Sam and Milton’s help, Andreas now has the support and resources he needs to excel in the 6th grade and become whoever he dreams of becoming in the future. “He can now focus on doing whatever makes a 12-year-old happy,” says Sam. “Ride bikes with his friends, eat chips, play video games, whatever he wants! The most important thing for him to understand is that no matter what he goes through or what he feels from his tough past, we’re not going anywhere. We’re family.”

For Sam and Milton, family means people who are always there. “Family comes together in times of sadness and grief bringing comfort to one another, just as a family comes together in times of happiness when there are things to celebrate,” says Sam. “Family is also something that can take many different and unexpected forms and can come from places you never expected.”

When it comes to becoming a host for a foster child, Sam and Milton say, “Take a chance. Dive in and see what happens. Kidsave offers many great ways to make a huge difference in a child’s life without having to make more of a commitment than you are ready to make. “Even if adoption is not for you, there are still other ways to volunteer and help, says Sam. “Show up to an event. You may be surprised at what you discover”.

Sam and Milton continue to be devoted parents to Andreas and advocates for Kidsave and will continue to volunteer in the future and share their success story. “Now we are Papas to an amazing kid, and our lives have changed,” says Sam. “Maybe it never existed before we met Andreas, or maybe just tucked away, but he’s an amazing and rewarding addition to our lives, and we wouldn’t trade it for the world. Meeting a child helps you observe and experience the world through a different lens. Above all else, we want Andreas to know that his daddys are always there for him.