Everyone has a dream. For most of us, that dream involves worldly success, accolades, and the acquisition of wealth. We loosely define this as “the American Dream,” elusive as it may be. But for others who do not desire the enticements of the world, another dream exists: the dream of possibility.
When Sarah was born, I did not want a child with special needs. I suppose, looking in retrospect, I was like most people: I wanted an easy, quiet life with “normal” kids who grew up to become contributing members of society. For me, there was no other way. I didn’t see anything else as an option – not until Sarah arrived and threw life in an entirely new direction for us.
At first, I was angry, but then I came to accept and eventually love the gift of her life, including Apert syndrome and everything it entails – all of the difficulties, all of the surgeries, and the constant exhaustion and emotional fatigue. But would it have been something I would have openly, willingly have chosen? Not a chance.
So when I heard about Dr. Mike and Camille Geraldi’s decision to adopt children who had Down syndrome, spina bifida, cerebral palsy, and other disabilities, my radar went up. This is a couple who is living – with intention, with incredible generosity – something that nearly every other one of us, myself included, would rather not do.
Dr. Mike was a physician working at the same hospital where Camille, a nurse, also worked. They met when Dr. Mike would walk past patients’ rooms and notice Camille sitting with the kids after her shift had ended. She was reading them stories and holding their hands. These were children who had been abandoned due to severe disabilities, and once the hospital ha done everything they could for the kids, Camille – who later married Dr. Mike – said she felt this was her life’s calling. She wanted to adopt them and spend her life caring for the children who were forgotten and neglected. Dr. Mike agreed to provide free health care to all of them.
The couple started a foundation after adopting 18 kids with various disabilities and having 3 biological children of their own. They built two homes on a large property and devoted their lives to loving these kids back to life. Many had received very poor prognoses and low life expectancies. Some were blind and told they would not live past childhood. Today, they are thriving and most of the Geraldi’s kids have graduated high school, train therapy dogs, and do other various volunteer and paid work.
They are, in a word, thriving.
The couple’s lives have not been without heartache and challenges, though. Dr. Mike sadly passed away last year after fighting a battle with mesothelioma. Today, his widow, Camille, continues their mission through The Possible Dream Foundation. More than 40 children are cared for “extended periods of respite care, hospice, therapeutic rehabilitation and sometimes specialty day care. Ranging in age from 3 to 63, their lives resemble that of the nuclear family. They study, do chores, go to church, sing, dance and play.” (I copied this via their website.)
Essentially, Camille’s work continues what she started with her husband so many decades ago: “helping others through education and resources on how to care for individuals with special needs.”
The Geraldi’s story has inspired countless people, and they have been covered in such media outlets as Ladies Home Journal and 60 Minutes. In fact, their 60 Minutes interview is shown below, in which you can catch a glimpse of what life is like for them:
As I discovered this beautiful non-profit organization and the incredible people who started it, I realized that my dream, too, is to make anything possible for my daughters. In fact, though life is hard with kids who have disabilities, it is also chock full of unfathomable joy. The richness of a life lived by loving someone who is otherwise unloved and rejected by society is a very noble calling, indeed. I hope to unite my heart with theirs in mission and spirit.
Text Copyright 2017 Jeannie Ewing, all rights reserved.