If you want to be schooled on staying the course amid unexpected challenges; Meet the Deardorff family.

Christee Deardorff had always felt she was born to be a mother. But the path would not be simple. Struggles with infertility would lead her to dive headfirst into research on adoption and the decision that international adoption was the best choice for the couple. Just as this decision was made, the events of 9/11 would occur, impacting international adoption in a big way and throwing the Deardorffs another curveball. But ten months of detailed paperwork and processing through homeland security, wouldn’t stand in the way of Christee becoming a mama.

Christee’s eyes still fill with tears as she talks about traveling to Russia to meet little Anna for the first time. Russia’s rules of adoption meant the Deardorffs would get to hold and hug their sweet girl but would have to leave her until their required return trip in December. “It was excruciating.” Brad shared. But the couple stayed strong, December came, and Anna came to the family as a toddler.

Christee’s dream continued to evolve as the Deardorffs went on to adopt two more little ones from China in the coming years. Each adoption would bring its own challenges. Aly, would struggle with digestion issues due to a congenital birth defect in her esophagus and would later be found to be profoundly deaf. Zack would be diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Both children would also need surgery to repair cleft lips and palates.

And life had one more bombshell for the Deardorffs. Just before Zack’s adoption was finalized, Christee came to a shocking realization. She was pregnant! Little Zack would come to the family as a 3 year-old in March of 2009 and baby Nate would be born to the Deardorffs in September of that same year. They could never have imagined the specific course, but the Deardorff family was finally complete.

The family’s journey with MDFF began more recently. Zack was getting older, and therefore bigger, and Christee could no longer transition him in and out of their vehicle alone. The family’s current van was also becoming increasingly unreliable. They knew a change needed to happen but a brand new mobility van was simply not an option, financially, for the family. Brad and Christee dove headfirst, again, into research on their options but eventually became overwhelmed. Fortunately, Brad had come across MDFF’s website along the way and made the first step to reach out for help.

“You have a tendency to think- I’ve got this. But you don’t; You can’t. There are just a massive number of options. You need to ask people who do this every day.”

We were able to connect the family with the right resources and guide them through the right steps for their specific situation. The Deardorffs were able to find and purchase a van that could be converted to fit their needs. Thanks, in part to our financial assistance program, the process was affordable for the family.

“The financial piece was valuable but, in the long run, the relationship with MDFF and Superior (Van and Mobility), Erin and Mindy’s knowledge base, the MDFF network, meant so much more. Knowing that you have someone to call when something pops up, someone who understands what you are going through, is truly invaluable,” Brad shared.

Brad and Christee’s path has not been easy but the couple do not portray an ounce of negativity when they share their story. They are quick, instead, to see and share the bright spots in each challenge. They’ll tell you they weren’t meant to get pregnant, at first, because it meant each special member of their family would end up together. They were meant to experience challenges with their adoptions and with the health of their children because it gave them the experience and knowledge to help others on the same path. They were brought to MDFF to gain the help they needed, but also to be a part of a network where they could pay-it-forward and pass that help along to others going through the same things.

It’s clear that the brightest spots of all are Anna, their creative, quiet, sporty animal lover; Aly, their dancer and resident chef; Zack- Robotics and board game enthusiast, violin player and self-taught chess whizz, and Nate, who seems to have picked up something from each of his older siblings, embracing sports, board games, singing, and dancing. Rounded out by Brad and Christee, they are truly the perfect team to navigate whatever challenges are coming next for this amazing and steadfast family.