Over a decade ago, I had a seed planted in my heart for orphans. Since then, my husband and I got degrees (and debt) and had three children. We struggled to make ends meet for years. We ended up in a place where adoption felt like a fleeting wish or dream that had died in our hearts due to our circumstances, and a journey that only the wealthy and big-hearted could obtain. That’s the thing about dreams: that often we think they have died and really they are just hidden away ready to sprout when the timing is right. One winter day, we decided to investigate international adoption, and just as things seem to happen in our lives when we least expect it, the doors flung open. We agreed to run after a child who would complete our family. My husband and I had said yes in our hearts but our bank accounts said something very different. The fees associated with adoption are terrifying. They nearly stopped us dead in our tracks. I am a school teacher and my husband is an art director at a design firm—we are truly middle class. We do not have a ton of extra money. But we decided that it is better to risk failing chasing down our dream than spend a lifetime wondering.
I committed to fundraising the money we needed. With shaking knees and little knowledge of how to do it, we began.
We began slowly, asking for donations for a garage sale. It felt less vulnerable, asking to take things off people’s hands that they didn’t want anyways. It felt like less of a burden to people. We were putting our toes in the water of asking for help. The garage sale made just under $2,000. We were able to pay a fee and we felt a bit of wind in our sails.
We then were lucky enough to receive tax money as well as a side design job my husband took in order to bring in another $5,000.
The next fundraising endeavor was t-shirts. I have seen this done and not do well. I was committed to making it work. My husband designed a great shirt and we paid a bit extra to get a high quality t-shirt. I slung these bad boys like my life depended on it. I ended sending them all over the country. There were a few hiccups, but it was manageable. The shirts made roughly $1,000 and created what felt like a united front. I felt at this point we had a village working to bring our wee one home.
I then decided to sell Krispy Kremes. This wasn’t my shining moment, but I figured I could turn a quick $700 by selling 100 dozen at our local grocery store in one day. It was brutal, but I sat there and told our story and slung every last donut. I also may or may not have eaten a dozen that day. No one said this adoption thing was making me any skinnier.
We had vision to have a farm-to-table dinner and auction. I had a dear friend who owns a farm and beautiful wedding venue. It holds 160 people and I was committed to selling every last seat. I decided I could get everything that was needed donated. This was wild and outrageous of me to think I could make happen. The good news is that I am a fierce momma, who is incredibly bold. I began asking. I got wine donated from a local winery, beer from a brewery, hard cider from a local company and a caterer to commit to doing the whole event for free. I asked a local boutique to make live succulent centerpieces for cost, and I sold them to turn a profit right off table. I asked every store I ever shopped in to donate for the auction, and every farmer and local grocery store to donate food. People said yes. In the end, we threw a beautiful event where children ran through the orchard meadow barefoot, playing croquet and cornhole. Friends and strangers drank and ate and laughed. I had a musician friend play while we ate and a friend tell her adoption story, as well as sharing our hearts. The event was perfect. It was so beautiful and effective that we plan to do it next year, but give the money to someone else. It was a lovely invitation for my community to step in and play a role in making our child a son. This event made $9,000 in the end and was a huge chunk of fundraising.
My husband took side jobs of photography here and there.
A local farmer donated their bumper blueberry crop to us and we paid a dollar per pound for 1,000 lbs of berries and sold them out of my house in one day for $2 per pound. A fast $1,000 dollars. The work was hard, but it was only a day and it was done!
We are only five months into the process and we have paid nearly $20,000. I am a normal person. I had none of this before we started. We are blown away that we are here today, two-thirds done with our payments, and now matched with our newest little love.
Currently, we have a weekly fruit sale starting, where I have purchased local fruit at cost and am selling boxes of peaches, pears and apples. Hoping to rake in some money with that!
Sure, we have maybe $10,000 left, but we have a plan. Success breeds success and now we know that we can do this. We also have learned to invite people along on our journey. Everyone isn’t called to adopt, but people love to be part of a story that is weaved together beautifully. We envision this being our only adoption, but we don’t envision this being the end for helping change the lives of children. Someday soon we hope to be on the other end of this beautiful adventure, helping others along.
This is possible. We have acquired no debt so far, and haven’t even applied for grants yet. This money didn’t fall in our laps. We have worked hard, but it also wasn’t back-breaking work. We are gaining momentum and people are joining in. This journey has taught me how much beauty and hope is in our world. It has shown me how much relationships matter. People are rallying with us and carrying us along, reminding us that we can do this.
Friends, you can do this. Money won’t fall from heaven like some winter’s day snowfall, but there is money out there. There are people willing to partner with you. Find your people and open your story and lives to them and watch it all unfold. Also, write your thank you notes—I have gone through over 200 so far of handwritten notes. Gratitude makes hearts swell.
You got this.
~Julie and the whole VanDeHey crew