On Saturday, March 25, Rotary clubs from the Plano community came together to support children who have been placed in foster care by hosting an Adoption Awareness Fair that allowed the kids to meet potential adoptive parents in a fun setting. The event was held at a Plano church and coordinated by Plano West Rotary Club members Michelle and Glen Thornton, who oversaw all 55 volunteers that contributed to the event.
At the Adoption Awareness Fair, more than 30 children ages three to 17 who currently live in foster care were invited by Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (TDFPS) to participate in a day of fun and games led by Rotarians and community volunteers. Approximately half of the children who attended were teenagers. TDFPS also invited more than 120 prescreened adults interested in adopting to participate in the fair as well. This allowed for observation, interactions and relationship-building between the children and adults.
Community volunteers helped plan many different activities the kids could participate in, including Connect 4 and Jenga games, Wii bowling, remote-controlled cars, table tennis, a cake walk and minute-to-win-it games. The kids could also decorate cupcakes, pot a plant to take home, make bracelets and keychains, color and draw, have their photograph taken in a photo booth, visit the petting zoo outside, or have their face painted. Top Achievers Foundation, a local nonprofit organization, led basketball drills and games. Plano Police and Fire departments brought service vehicles the kids could explore. Snacks, drinks and treats were provided, as well as breakfast and a hot lunch. This fun event was provided at no cost to the children or adults, and every child left with multiple prizes from the prize wall as well.
The Adoption Awareness Fair supports Rotary’s focus on saving the lives of children. The organizers hope that this event begins the process that builds families. “Every child deserves to grow up in a home where they are loved,” said Michelle. Rotary is also about bringing people together to make positive change in their community. This service project demonstrated the monumental effect clubs can have when working together. The Rotary Clubs of Plano West, Plano East, Plano Metro, and North Texas Pioneers donated volunteers and physical supplies. Rotary Clubs of Addison and Royce City brought volunteers, as did Plano Community Rotaract. TDFPS also contributed more than a dozen staff members to help, and 30 caseworkers attended. Altogether 55 volunteers put time into this project, totaling a cumulative 355 hours of donated time. Donated funds totaled $1,500, and donated supplies were valued at $2,500, for a grand total of $4,000 in donations.
The Adoption Awareness Fair in Collin County was started by Glen and Michelle in 2019. “I started going to these district events several years ago in South Dallas. Because I'm adopted, I realized how much this impacted me. So when CPS asked Michelle during one of these events if she and I would be interested in starting one of these in Collin County, we said yes,” said Glen. After being put on hold for a couple years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the fair returned in 2022. Glen and Michelle both felt this year’s fair was another successful event. “One way to gauge success is by asking ourselves if we were able to get parents and kids engaged and interacting. Just between the two of us, we witnessed several great interactions. For us, that's our goal – getting them together in a fun and engaging environment,” said Glen.
This particular service project impacted the volunteers as much as the people it served. “I wanted to participate in the Adoption Awareness Fair because I saw it as an opportunity to change a person's life, for good, in just one day. That sounds pretty magical to me. I have participated in many events for various nonprofits, all of whom have a mission to help people after their lives have been changed. The Adoption Awareness Fair is different,” said Rotarian Mollie Hancock. If you are interested in serving at next year’s Collin County Adoption Awareness Fair, mark your calendar for April 6, 2024.