A local family is working to help others adopt children, an effort made more difficult for many by the high cost of adoptions. Pictured above, David and Lisa Wert and their children (from left) Abby, Alek, and Ava, have teamed with other volunteers to sponsor a fund-raising gala. See the story on Page 5.
Photo by Tom Steiner for The Citizen
Eight years ago, when David and Lisa Wert of Ben Avon were in the process of adopting their son, Alek, they weren't sure how they were going to afford all of the expenses involved in that process.
“We were short on funds,” David recalls.
He and Lisa shared their concerns with a friend visiting for the weekend. A few days later, their friend called and said they didn't need to worry about any fund-raisers because he wanted to give them the remaining money as a gift.
“He didn't want to be paid back. This was his gift to us, a tremendous pressure off our shoulders, and we knew at that moment we wanted to be able to pay his kind gift forward to other adoptive families, if ever we were in a position to do so. Our friend’s name is Gregory -- thus, “Gregory's Gift.”
The original idea to start an adoption fund began as a "kingdom challenge" that pastors at Wexford’s New Community Church posed to members of the congregation.
“They raised $10,000 to distribute to members of the church in $100 increments and challenged them to ‘advance the kingdom of Christ on $100....’ and then come back and share their experiences. I knew I wanted to have a soccer-related activity that involved having my kids (who love soccer) help raise money for orphans while doing the sport they loved. With the help of coaches from the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, my friend, Vicki Carlson, and I organized the ‘Kickin’ 4 Kidz’ soccer fund-raiser and raised $10,000 during a one-night event held at the Avonworth soccer field. Those early funds helped to establish Gregory's Gift Adoption Fund to offset some of the initial costs of adoption for families in the Pittsburgh area.
Since that first event, the committee has expanded to include eight additional Avonworth and church families whom he acknowledges as his “fantastic team” working on the Gregory's Gift projects.
“In addition to my wife Lisa, there are Vicki Carlson, Nate and Shanea Schaub, Michael and Jennifer Lawrence, Mindy and Stephen Cropper, Nancy Wagner, Christian and Linda Parker, Brad McKenzie, and Sandy Day, along with Katie Carlson, an Avonworth junior who has made all of the videos for the Web site/Facebook page and for the Gala event. Each of us has an area of strength that serves the greater good of the group and all of the families we serve. It has been amazing to work with such dedicated and talented people,” Wert said.
“Last year we tackled our first-ever Gregory's Gala, a 1920s-themed event held at the Grand Hall at the Priory, and were blessed to have close to 200 people attend, helping to raise an additional $50,000 to benefit the fund, which has assisted 20 families across PA in funding a portion of their adoption. Those 20 families will adopt 23 children into their loving homes. All of that in 10 months!” Wert said.
Since the need is tremendous, the group will hold its second Gala, a “Black & White Masquerade” on Sunday, April 2, at Pittsburgh’s Omni William Penn, 6-10 p.m., with the goal of raising $100,000 to fund another 20-40 family adoptions over the course of the next one to two years.
“So much money is needed up front, and with adoptions costing in the range of $15,000-50,000, it is challenging for families to access so much money quickly. Since a friend aided our adoption, why shouldn't we help other families with the same heart to adopt and with the same struggle to cover the initial costs? Once you've visited an orphanage and seen the faces of the children waiting for someone to accept them into a loving family, I don't think you can ever just sit back and wait for someone else to help them and their waiting families. There are over 150,000,000 orphans worldwide, and the fact that hundreds of children die of abuse, starvation, and neglect every single day, sitting in my Pittsburgh home and hoping that someone else will come to their aid is just NOT an option,” Wert said.
Between 170-180 people are expected at the Gala this year, not quite meeting the anticipated goal of 250. Wert’s concern is that some may think that they have to be interested in adopting in order to attend the event. He emotionally clarifies that is just not the case.
“You have to have a heart that aches for these children and the families who want to bring them home. You have to be a person who wants to stand alongside these families and do whatever it takes to bring the child home. You have to be open to donating to the cause, and while you may not be interested or able to adopt, we can all surely rally behind the families who do and help their dream and willingness come true. It just takes one person willing to give one gift, that can make the difference in bringing one orphan home to one loving family. We all have the ability to make that difference.”
Further information can be found at www.gregorysgift.org to see stories of families sponsored and to read about the upcoming Gala 2017, along with a link to donate to the fund and a link to order tickets to this year’s event. Readers also can go to a Facebook page link at the bottom of the Web site to see videos.
“We wish to keep sponsoring as many families as our fund-raising will allow,” Wert said. “It’s our goal to begin seeking long-term, sustainable funding through partnerships with local businesses and organizations in order to develop a constant revenue stream to continually fund new families, so anyone who feels a deep connection to what we are doing is welcome to contact us to see how such partnerships can be built.”