Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Interview with Patti from A Perfect Lily

Here it is the much awaited interview with Patti:
So I have followed along half a year, but for those who have never visited your blog how did it come to you to start writing about Lily?

I started writing letters to Lily when I was 20 weeks pregnant with her. Actually, I started a journal to her in a book when I first became pregnant with her, just as I've done with all of my children. When several markers for Down syndrome showed up on Lily's routine ultrasound, as well as a possible heart condition, I decided to start a blog to journal, so that our family could read about what was happening. We have a large, close knit extended family spread out across the United States, and this was more convenient than making a dozen phone calls after each doctor visit (which were becoming more and more frequent!). I was also very emotional during those months, and I was more comfortable with sharing our ups and downs through a blog than crying on the phone about everything!

I have been wondering this for awhile since I was following when your blog started but how did you find out about Reeces Rainbow?

I hope you're ready for a novel, Leah :)

After Lily was born I became pretty obsessed with blogs about children with Down syndrome. I wanted to see what raising a child with Down syndrome entailed, and blogs gave me that window into life better than any other book or resource. SO while reading other blogs, I stumbled across two blogs: Living in the Light and Saving Sophia. I still remember the night I found these two blogs- I was sitting up in bed nursing (or trying to!) Lily, still sort of reeling a little on the inside about her diagnosis- and here were these moms who were CHOOSING to adopt a baby with Down syndrome. And they each already had a child at home with Ds! It blew my mind. Both Lisa and Jennifer were in the process of adopting their little girls- in fact I believe they were both in Eastern Europe at the time, rescuing them. I stayed up long into the night, scrolling back through their blogs and reading all about their adoption journeys, and my heart was so gripped. I could not stop reading. I wish I could say I immediately started blogging about RR, but the truth is I was so overwhelmed by the pictures I saw of the kids on RR who weren't being rescued, that I avoided the Reece's Rainbow site for months.

A few months later, one of Lily's readers emailed me asking me if I'd heard about the kids on Reece's Rainbow...she pretty much plead their case, saying my blog could have so much impact if I alerted Lily's readers to the plight of these children. I really did not want to go there emotionally, so I tucked that little email away for another day. But God had other plans!!

Shortly after that, my friend Stephanie blogged about a little girl named Olga on Reece's Rainbow. This time when I read Stephanie's words, I didn't turn away. I looked at Olga's face and fell in love- here was this beautiful little girl who had done nothing wrong in life. And she would never know the love of a family if someone didn't rescue her. I started begging Sam to let us adopt her. I cried myself to sleep plotting ways to help her. We gave what little money we could to help her, but I knew it was a drop in the bucket compared to what it would take to ransom her.

One day I read about a little girl named Elizabeth who had been transferred to an institution. That post shook me to the core- I was consumed with the idea that Olga could be transferred if someone didn't rescue her. I pleaded her case to Sam, but honestly there was no way we could have adopted her given the size of our family and our income- we do not qualify to adopt internationally. That night Sam and I watched a video on Serbian mental institutions. We both sat there with tears streaming down our faces, and afterwards Sam turned to me..."What are we going to DO, Patti?"

We talked and prayed and decided that we would focus on just one. We might not be able to save all the kids on Reece's Rainbow, but we were going to do everything we could to save Olga. I got on the computer and Sam got on his laptop, and he started writing emails to every single contact he could think of, asking for help. While he was emailing friends and family, I googled every fundraising idea I could to try to find a way to help save Olga. I stumbled upon- or maybe God lead me to- Adeye's post called The Most Important Post I have Ever Written. I turned to Sam and said, "I just read about a woman who raised $20,000 for one orphan in less than a week by running an iPad giveaway. A family claimed her by the end of the giveaway."

I turned back to the computer and continued reading out loud to him...when I was done I went into the kitchen to wash dishes, and a few minutes later Sam came out. He told me to close my eyes and put out my hands...and in them he placed a brand new iPod touch. It was worth $229 and he was going to sell it so we could buy Christmas gifts for our kids (it was a tight year!)

We had no idea if our little iPod giveaway would work, but we were willing to try. Just a few weeks later readers had given almost $13,000 to Olga, and $3,256 to another beautiful little girl, Kareen. Less than a month after that, two families came forward to claim Olga and Kareen...and that was just the beginning of all that God would do :)

You have been so inspiring to me throughout my advocating for Celine & Cora Lynne, who inspires you to be a better advocate?

Honestly? The families rescuing these kids. They sacrifice so much, they put their hearts on the line, they endure home studies and mountains of paperwork and fundraising, they take the heat from folks who just don't understand why orphan rescue is so important, they basically put their lives on hold until their angels overseas are safely home...THEY are the heroes, and they inspire me to do everything I can to make their jobs easier.

How has having Lily changed your life?

In a nutshell, she has completely changed all of our lives by opening our eyes to the beauty of life. And I say that at the risk of sounding corny or dramatic, but unless you've experienced the blessing of Down syndrome, you probably don't know how true that statement is. We don't take little things for granted, we have a greater appreciation for those who struggle in life, and we value so greatly the gift we've been given in her. She is a GIFT, and I do not deserve her.

I bet its crazy with 10 kids, I don’t know how you (or the Duggars for that matter!) handle that many kids even though I am 1 of 6 kids. I know my Grandpa who was 1 of 9 handled it pretty well. So how do you handle the craziness of life?

LOTS of prayer, my awesome husband who supports me in all of my crazy projects, and a merciful and gracious God. I could not do what I'm doing without the grace of God.
Oh, and chocolate. ;)

Having seen you do many successful Giveaways/fundraisers for Reece's Rainbow what are some of your tips for families or advocates trying to fundraise?

I'm no expert, but here are a few things I've noticed.

One- readers don't owe us anything. They have their own personal needs, their own financial situations, and we would be making a mistake to just expect them to give to our cause just because we think it is worthy. And it is worthy. But there are many noble and worthy causes in the world, and I think we make a big mistake when we try to pressure or guilt people into giving, because we just do not know what others are going through - even five dollars just might be impossible for someone to give. I hope nobody ever leaves Lily's blog feeling pressured into donating. I personally would rather be rallied to a noble cause than bullied into giving.

Secondly- I hope I don't step on any toes here, and this is just my experience...if you're doing a giveaway keep it simple and short. Elaborate explanations or rules, or an overly extended giveaway is not necessarily going to bring in more money. People ARE giving to help orphans, but the prizes are great motivators too! Knowing that you get to find out who won the iPad or quilt or etsy item next week can sometimes be a better incentive than wondering if the winners will ever be announced:) Just my opinion there!

Third- SPREAD THE WORD! Something I've tried to do is get the word out to people OUTSIDE the Ds blogging community. Our little network does not have limitless bank accounts! When I ran the Pure Love giveaway for Peter, which brought in over $15,000, I prayed for weeks ahead of time that God would bring in new readers. Right before that giveaway I ran a little post called Worthy of Life. I had no intention of it doing so, but that post went viral for a few days- Children's Hospital Boston picked it up, and in the matter of two days I had dozens of new readers and potential donors, who had never heard of Reece's Rainbow. Right before the giveaway for Albina I prayed the same thing- God bring in new readers. I entered a blog contest, called Circle of Moms. I hate self promoting BUT, the truth is, these contests bring tons of new traffic, because they open our blogs up to readers outside of our community! Again, Lily's blog got so much traffic prior to the giveaway, that as a result we were able to raise over $5,000 for Albina (plus a matching $5,000 thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor!). Something else I did prior to that giveaway was to contact non-Ds bloggers and ask for their help in promoting the giveaway. Again, I was trying to reach outside of the DS blogging world, to bring our message to others who have never heard about RR. I found three "big" bloggers who were willing to help blog about the giveaway, and we had many, many hits from those sites, and lots of new readers and donations. Facebook and twitter and online forums are wonderful places to promote your giveaways- do not just rely on your own readers to promote the giveaway or give to it! Send emails, print flyers, post it on Craigslist, in a newspaper ad, do everything you can to spread the word.

And PRAY. That should go without saying, but God is the one who brings the increase. Don't I sound like a pastor's wife?? ;) But it's true!

What has been the most memorable moment through advocating?

hmmmm...hard to pinpoint. I think the moment I heard a family had committed to Olga. And then to Kareen. And Peter. And Albina. I was literally shaking from head to toe crying my eyes out when I heard that families had claimed these kids. It never gets old- it's actually a bit like giving birth:) I get high on it!

Just as memorable was watching Kareen (Mia) be rescued. Our whole family was gathered around the computer every day watching all of that unfold- it seemed so surreal that she was actually leaving that orphanage and going home to a family...it was almost incomprehensible that the little girl we had only seen in a picture was a living, breathing child who was being RESCUED, in small part because of Lily's blog. Unbelievable joy.

What has been the hardest thing through advocating?

That's easy. Critics. Just a few, but you would not believe how much their words cut to the heart. Especially because my biggest grief is being misunderstood. I hate to have people think anything bad of me, and when someone leaves a comment or sends an email questioning my motives or falsely accusing me...it really makes me want to quit. How silly! God's really helping me to quit focusing on the few rotten apples that want to ruin the whole bunch:)

Any advice you would like other advocates to know? I know support is such an encouragement myself.

Keep doing what you're doing, Leah. You are a rare and beautiful young lady- someone who would put her heart on the line constantly, by being a voice for these children. Only Heaven will tell the complete impact you had on others lives. You are a hero in my book:)
Thanks Patti for being willing to share & continuing to inspire me to be a better advocate! First of all since Patti, has been advocating for a little boy named Artem I thought I would share his picture with his Reeces Rainbow link cause I know how much he means to her & that he finds a family!

Heres Artems profile link
Please also visit Patti at her blog A Perfect Lily


Katrina said...

Thanks Patti and Leah for the great post. It was helpful to read about some of the ways you were able to get help with your giveaways as we will be having one around Thanksgiving and need all the ideas we can get. And so glad these children were able to find families. Praying Artem finds his soon.

Carlene's soon to be momma :)

Leah said...

Thanks Katerina!

DebW said...