Heroes Among Us

Andrea Roberts Helps Orphans With Down Syndrome Find Homes

11/08/2012 at 09:00 AM EST

Down Syndrome Adoption Hero: Women Helps Place Orphans with Families
Clockwise, from left: Reece, Rich, Andrea and Owen Roberts
Courtesy Andrea Roberts
Andrea Faris Roberts figured her new son, born in 2002, got his almond-shaped eyes from her husband, Rich.

But when doctors confirmed that Reece had Down syndrome, "I couldn't stop crying," says Andrea, whose prenatal tests were normal. "I thought, 'What's tomorrow going to be like?' "

The answer: Reece has not only enriched his parents' lives but inspired his mom to save kids with Down syndrome around the world. Researching her son's condition, Andrea learned that in many countries, babies born with the disorder are often abandoned and left in orphanages.

Launching Reece's Rainbow in 2004, the former account manager wrote grant applications and networked with adoption agencies, ultimately dispersing over $4 million to fund adoptions of more than 850 children from Russia, China, Mexico and elsewhere.



Parents like John and Charissa Urban of Owasso, Okla., wouldn't know the love of Ava, now 8, adopted from Ukraine in 2008 without the help of Reece's Rainbow. They turned to the organization to help with funds to bring home little Ava – who weighed only 19 lbs. and was unable to roll over at age 3.

Andrea Roberts Helps Orphans With Down Syndrome Find Homes| Heroes Among Us, Good Deeds, Real People Stories, Real Heroes

Reece and Owen Roberts

Courtesy Andrea Roberts

Though she initially had to use a walker to get around, Ava is now running, jumping and playing with her six siblings, including two who are adopted also (one of whom also has Down syndrome). "She's the center of our family," Charissa says. "We're so grateful."

Andrea says that families are being built every day.

"What is wonderful about Reece's Rainbow, is that families can go and see children's photos on the website and know that money is being raised to help with the adoption costs," says Andrea. "They see that it is a better possibility for them to be able to afford to adopt without the years of painful heartbreak in waiting to try to raise funds."

Today, 10-year-old Reece is in the 5th grade and loves playing basketball with his little brother, Owen, 7, in the family's yard in Gaithersburg, Maryland. He's also challenging his father at golf.

"He's got a better golf game than my husband any day of the week," laughs Andrea, 40. "He's got a wonderful swing."

Andrea Roberts Helps Orphans With Down Syndrome Find Homes| Heroes Among Us, Good Deeds, Real People Stories, Real Heroes

Andrea and Reece Roberts

Courtesy Andrea Roberts

Andrea insists that children with Down syndrome in institutions around the world are not forgotten and would be adopted if more families could afford the typical $25,000 fee (which includes home study costs, travel and adoption expenses).

"After six and a half years, all I can say to the world is, 'I told you so. I told you these kids were wanted,' " says Andrea. "Today, 850 children are not hidden away in institutions anymore. We have new connections every single day."

She adds: "If we had a full grant for every child on our website, we would have no children on our website. The cost is what is hard for people but every life is worth it. If we had more sponsors who could write a check for each of these kids and they would all have families. All of them."

And the proud mother says that her son Reece continues to be an inspiration.

"Reece," she says, "has helped so many families begin."



Know a hero? Send suggestions to heroesamongus@peoplemag.com. For more inspiring stories, read the latest issue of PEOPLE magazine

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