A couple of months earlier, Laura stumbled across Kidsave while perusing an adoption Facebook group. She had a long-time interest in adopting, and seeing a post of the kids traveling from Colombia through Summer Miracles caught her attention. “It just sounded like a perfect fit for me. I have some background in the Spanish language and Latin American culture,” says Laura. “And I just felt more called towards older kids, so I just followed that calling.” Laura did her research and dived right in. In May, she learned about the program and completed all her steps to host Maria through Kidsave in July.
That day at the airport, Maria too was a ball of emotion, nervous and tired from the long trip when she arrived. Laura hadn’t gotten any sleep the night before either, so they had that in common, Laura explains lightheartedly. This was only the beginning of their journey. Deep down, Laura says, she knew this was the first day of the rest of their lives together. Watch the kids arrive.
“In my heart, I knew before she even got here and never wavered from that,” says Laura. “I just fell in love with her smile the moment I saw her picture. She had such a kind smile, it reminded me of my grandmother, whose name was Mary. It was more the emotion behind the smile than the physical resemblance, although a lot of the family says there is a physical resemblance. It was just something about her. I just knew she was my daughter in my heart, so I did my dossier and all the paperwork before she even got here.”
Laura worked hard to curb her expectations beforehand, understanding they would need to feel it out and get to know each other. Maria had traveled with Kidsave Summer Miracles Program before, and this was her second chance. “She’s a great kid, but her first host family wasn’t the right fit for her,” says Laura. “It is crucial to make sure it’s a good fit for both you and the kids.”
She says that any expectations she did have about hosting were exceeded. “I hit the jackpot with Maria. She’s just a great kid, and as soon as we got to the house, she just settled right in like she’d always been there.”
Laura’s time getting to know Maria wasn’t always easy, but it was enriching, she says. “It’s hard work. I was exhausted every day, but I went to bed happily exhausted. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It was a learning curve for me, never having had children of my own.”
Five weeks in the summer seemed to fly by, and the sad day arrived when Maria had to head back to Colombia. “Nothing can prepare you for them leaving,” says Laura. “The house felt so empty. She just filled it with joy, and there was a different energy in the house. We were so caught up in activities, I didn’t realize how much of a difference she made when she was here.”
A Birthday Wish
Laura found solace in the thought that she would soon experience the joy and laughter of her daughter again. Over the summer, Laura had asked Maria what she wanted for her birthday. “I thought she’d say a Barbie or a bike, but she said ‘una familia,’ a family,” says Laura. “So I made it my mission to be there for her birthday.”
Laura talked to her adoption agency, and they said it was possible if everything went smoothly., but the final step was waiting for her Article 5 from the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá. “I wrote the Embassy an email, as well as reached out to both my senator and congressperson, and had them contact the Embassy,” explains Laura. “A week before her birthday, I wrote them another email. At this point, it was a last-ditch effort. I wrote this long email telling them about her birthday, our story, and how important it was for me to be there. Within 30 minutes, they responded with the Article 5—and I was on a plane less than a week later!”
Laura was packed and prepared and flew out just in time for the big day. Their encuentro (reunion) was on Maria’s 13th birthday. Laura made sure they celebrated with a birthday party with cake and pizza for her and the other kids. Maria’s birthday wish had come true. “She was excited and became so overwhelmed with emotion,” says Laura. “That was an extraordinary moment.”
Back in the U.S.
Laura and Maria are settling in after traveling back to the U.S. And enjoying moments together. Laura says Maria loves making breakfast, omelets with a Ketchup heart. Laura describes Maria as extremely caring, good-hearted, giving, but most of all a silly, giggly, “goofball.” Laura says they are perfect for each other because they can be silly together.
The mother-daughter duo is excited to start traditions together. “The one thing we’ve always done together is our bedtime routine. I read Maria stories before she goes to bed. I bought a bunch of books that are empowering to help her process her emotions and feelings,” says Laura. “We read together every night, and that’s my favorite activity. I’m hoping she doesn’t grow out of it.”
First Holiday Season Together
Now, Laura and Maria are joyously preparing for their first holiday together. For Laura, integrating Maria’s culture into their festivities is crucial. “Recently we celebrated Día de las velitas, Day of the Little Candles, which is a traditional holiday in Colombia,” Laura shares, “there are some kids from Colombia being hosted right now in the next town over, so we invited them over and had a little celebration.” Maria showed her how to make natilla and buñuelos.
As Christmas approaches, Laura’s getting ready to take on the role of organizing the celebrations. “Traditionally, my parents hosted on Christmas Eve, but they’ve passed on the torch to me,” and Laura plans to center Maria’s traditions on that special day. “For Christmas itself, they celebrate on Christmas Eve in Colombia,” Laura beams, “so I’m doing a Colombian-themed Christmas Eve with Colombian dishes, and then on Christmas Day, we’ll have an American style dinner.”
Laura and Maria are both excited to celebrate their first blended Christmas together. Though, Laura has made sure to let Maria know that double celebrations “do not mean double the presents!” Laughing, Laura says, “I told her we can open half on Christmas Eve and half on Christmas Day.”
Laura leaves us with this bit of advice for future Kidsave Summer Miracles host families, “People who were thinking about hosting or adopting through Kidsave, follow your heart. Whether you have the intention to adopt or not, you have the opportunity to change a kid’s life. They will 100% change yours.”