When Rich Rasmussen arrived home on Dec. 19, his wife, Deb, knew immediately that something was up.
“He was kind of standing there with this look on his face, like he was going to cry,” she recalled.
Rich was coming from a Sunday youth-group meeting at Ithaca’s Immaculate Conception Church, where he serves as youth minister. He showed Deb a scroll given to him by the youth group, signifying the couple’s efforts to adopt a child. The scroll contained a picture of a baby in a cradle, and a note of encouragement stating that the Rasmussens were going to make awesome parents.
“I thought, ‘oh, that’s really sweet,'” Deb said.
But then she didn’t know what to think, upon discovering there was something more: a money-order gift for $600, to help toward expenses associated with adoption. “I was just floored,” she remarked.
Rich, also, had been overwhelmed a few hours earlier when he was presented with the scroll and money by Immaculate Conception’s Brandon Sforzo, a college freshman, and Peter Corina, a high-school senior.
“I practically lost it. I had tears,” Rich said. “I knew that people knew we’re trying to adopt, and were praying for me. I had been getting encouraging words throughout the course of the year. Then to have this happen, this kind of a gesture … they were like, ‘do you need to sit down?'”
The Rasmussens, who reside in Trumansburg, have been married for eight years and have no children of their own. They began the adoption process in earnest three years ago, shortly after Rich became full-time youth minister at Immaculate Conception. Working initially through Catholic Family Center, the Rasmussens are now aligned with an international adoption agency, Wide Horizons for Children.
As adoptive parents know all too well, the process can require significant cash and paperwork — and patience. “Thinking you can just turn around and throw your application in — it doesn’t work that way,” Rich said, adding, “The tough part of some of these countries is that even when you’re approved, all of a sudden the rules have changed.”
“It’s one of the hardest parts, just this waiting. It’s just a constant roller coaster,” Deb said, admitting that at various times over the past few years, she became so discouraged that she was tempted to throw in the towel.
These days, the Rasmussens are highly hopeful — in fact, they’ve been hard at work preparing a home nursery for their yet-unknown child. The couple first sought through Wide Horizons for Children to adopt an infant from Colombia, but adoptions from that country were frozen last year due to high demand. Rich and Deb have now broadened their search to the Philippines and are awaiting approval of their application, which was filed in October. They are open to adopting either a boy or girl, as close to infancy as possible, and might also consider a set of siblings.
Rich estimated that overall adoption costs for fees and travel are $16,000 for a Colombian baby and $10,000 for a Filipino. Despite their strong need for funding, Rich and Deb never sought donations and initially wanted to return the $600 gift from Immaculate Conception’s youths. However, based on the way it was presented, they came to realize they had no choice but to take it.
“It wasn’t up for negotiation. It wasn’t going to be something they were going to let Deb and I not accept,” Rich said.
Whereas Rich knows the money came from current and former youth-group members, as well as their families, he doesn’t plan to find out who the individual donors are because they apparently wish to remain anonymous. Nevertheless, he and Deb wish to express their deep gratitude to all involved.
“Sometimes youth ministers don’t know the type of impact they make. And I didn’t know, until this gesture,” Rich said, describing the generous act as “ministering back to the minister.”
“So many people have been with us on this,” Deb said of her and Rich’s journey toward becoming adoptive parents. “I’m just so touched, that a) they would think of us in the midst of everyone who has needs in this world, and b) to come up with that amount of money. It’s just beyond description.”