CHATHAM — Nicole Anthony, 39, of Chatham has been fighting off the feeling that she’s “buying a baby” for the last year.
After four years of trying to conceive, she and her husband John assessed their alternatives and decided to adopt, only to find the projected costs completely overwhelming.
John Anthony, 44, immersed himself in research, bookmarking Resources4Adoption, a Kansas-based support agency that works with families to find unconventional funding sources.
For weeks, he pored over their advice about fundraising events and donation matching programs.
So in early October, when the agency announced a Facebook contest for free financial counseling services, he jumped.
He created a page promoting their entry and asked everyone he knew to spread the word.
“We had friends who were telling friends of friends, and friends of friends of friends, and the next thing we knew, we were like, ‘Okay, this is majorly out of control,’” John Anthony said.
One of those invites went to J.P. Paulus, a writer for their neighborhood blog, The Sixth Ward.
Paulus rallied for the couple on the site, which he says has roughly 500 visitors daily and reaches readers in Englewood, Park Manor, Chatham, Greater Grand Crossing, West Chesterfield, and Roseland Heights.
“If there’s good and positive events in our neighborhood, we really try to highlight that,” Paulus said. “We’ve never had something as personal as John and Nicole’s story that I can recall, but we tried to make the contest a priority and not put any stories on top of it so it wouldn’t get lost.”
The winner was determined by a popular vote on Resources4Adoption’s Facebook page during an 18-hour window.
Votes for the Anthonys quickly surpassed their competitors by the dozens.
Their prize, according to Executive Director Cherri Walrod, is a sort of “dream toolkit,” which includes free access to Resources4Adoption’s extensive database of available grants and loans, a one-year membership to Adoption Share, an agency that connects prospective adoptive parents with birth mothers and pregnancy crisis counselors, and a raft of educational materials on funding alternatives.
While those resources will certainly help the Anthony’s map their path to adoption, Walrod says their contest win in itself proves they’ll likely be successful.
For unconventional adoption fundraising, “the network is really important,” Walrod said.
“Sometimes people try to look at the adoption process and that $35,000 bill looks like a brick wall,” she said. “But it’s many $500 or $100 bricks that we take down one at a time. We lay those down, and they become stepping stones to a child.”
Nicole said agencies have told them repeatedly that the once they overcome the financial obstacle, getting a child will likely be a quick process, because African-American parents are in high demand.
Michelle Hughes, a Chicago-based adoption attorney who’s been working with the couple, said that in Illinois and nationally, African-American families experience significantly shorter wait times for independent and agency-assisted adoptions.
The Anthonys say they’re energized by the show of community support, and are already working on fundraising ideas.
John Anthony said he hopes to host a party where “we can invite folks over, tell our story and say, ‘Look, if you want to help us out, you can. This is what we have so far, can you help us out with a little more?’”