BY JEFF FALK
Most of them construct houses, furniture or decks. This Carpenter builds relationships, families and bridges of hope.
By name, ‘this carpenter’ is Brian ‘Boo’ Carpenter. By trade, Carpenter is a painter and an assistant coach for the Cedar Crest girls’ soccer program. But his true work originiates from his faith and belief in God.
You see, not only does Carpenter touch lives – seemingly every one he comes in contact with – he also saves them.
Carpenter and his wife Stephanie adopt under-priviledged, physically challenged and foreign-born children, some of whom no one else wants. They are in the process of bringing home their fourth adoptee – all girls – and have their sights set on number five.
“They cast these kids away because they don’t feel like they can be a benefit to society,” said Carpenter, who’s been a Falcon assistant for the past five seasons. “Who knows if Sasha (his oldest daughter) would be alive today? I think God hid it (her physical affliction) on us so we would take her. These are kids most people don’t want, special needs kids.
“All three girls have a form of cerebral palsy,” Carpenter continued. “They’re very challenging. But we feel like we have a duty to have them experience life through us. Both of us (he and Stephanie) are fortunate because we’re both healthy.”
Just ask the Falcons, their Elco Raider rivals and a couple of other local scholastic sports teams, which have joined the Carpenters in their raising of funds for the expensive adoption process.
Recently, the Falcon and Raider girls combined forces to make money through a ‘Liberate Lina’ – the Carpenters’ fourth child – t-shirt campaign. The effort, which sold $10 t-shirts to players, coaches, parents and fans, raised $1,000 and culminated before the start of the annual Blue-Gray game between the rivals.
“The Elco parent booster club actually initiated it,” said Carpenter, a one-time scoring record holder at Cedar Crest. “Steph went to Elco and knows some of the boosters. I was running one day to see if I could come up with a word that goes with Lina, and I came up with ‘Liberate’. And the boosters ran with it. All the girls bought t-shirts. I was really humbled by that.”
Stephanie and 15-year-old Sasha will be bringing Lina – Angelina Mariyana Carpenter – home to South Lebanon on June 2nd. Lina’s plight is representative of the type of children the Carpenters have adopted.
Physically-challenged Lina has been housed in Bulgaria’s largest special needs home, in Sofia, for most of her natural life. Almost six years-old, Lina weighs just 13 pounds and is a resident on the home’s ‘dying floor’, an area Stephanie refers to as ‘the worst place in the world’.
“Steph was on a Bulgarain website one day and this little girl came across her computer screen,” explained Boo. “She fell in love with her. God laid her (Lina) on her (Stephanie’s) heart. We knew she was really small, but it was from muscular myopothy. She doesn’t have muscles because she’s so malnourished. Most of Lina’s problems are related to malnutrition.
“She’s (Lina) more cognititvely developed than we anticipated,” Carpenter continued. “They have this thing called, ‘failure to thrive’ syndrome. They live in cribs. They don’t develop, don’t grow. You’re looking at teenage kids who look like infants. Lina is one of them. It’s remarkable she’s as bright as she is.”
By name, Lina’s sisters are the Russian-born Sasha, Ellianna and Avigayil. Sasha was adopted in 1998, at the age of 17 months.
“When we adopted Sasha we did not know she had physical issues,” said Boo, who’s been married to Stephanie for 21 years. “We knew she was born at 28 weeks. She was a preemie. We brought her home and noticed her right foot was turned in. She has a mild case of cerebral palsy on her right side that affects her foot and ankle.
“This (adoption) is something we talked about when we got to know each other,” Boo added. “Steph was a gymnast growing up and she had an affection for Russian and Bulgarian gymnasts. We never pursued having our own children.
“We actually have our sights set on another daughter, from the Phillipines. After that, we’re not sure. It’s up to God to direct us, to either stop at five or do something else. That’s our long-term plan, as far as children go.”
Stephanie is employed by an international adoption agency. In the beginning the couple supported foreign orphanages by raising money for them.
“We started raising funds to send money to them,” said Boo. “And we continue to provide aid to orphanages. The exchange rate (of currency) is so high that you don’t need a whole lot of money to supply them. It’s been a neat relationship. As long as there’s a need, we’ll try to provide. We have a lot on our plate. It’s been hard, but a blessing and gratifying.
“The only way I can describe it is that God has put it into our hearts to help the least and lost,” Boo continued. “We feel really called to adopt those in need. We have a passion to do it.”
“Steph has worked in adoptions for a number of years. She’s advocating for kids everyday. She sees hundreds of kids on a weekly basis.”
Given the travel involved, Carpenter estimated that an average adoption costs between $18,000 and $35,000. But he emphasized that money should not be a deterrent to those considering it.
God will provide.
“It is expensive financially, and a lot of red tape,” said Boo. “You get run through the ringers. I think there’s costs involved that could be avoided. Cost is a deterrent to some people, but it shouldn’t be.
“Most of the money we’ve used has been raised through fund-raising,” Boo continued. “We’ve had anonymous donations, and some have given thousands of dollars. We’ve kind of taken two different approaches. The one is, if people don’t know your needs they can’t help. There are people who want to help and don’t know where to give.
“We try to make the focus on the child. It’s not about us. There’s another process where you make it a more private request to God, and allow Him to move others hearts. It’s just amazing how He’s saved the least. It’s been a neat journey so far. Most of the money comes from donors or fund-raising, or we couldn’t do it.”
Another surprising source for the Carpenters’ fund-raising efforts has been the internet. Further proof that God does work in mysterious ways.
“It’s amazing,” said Boo. “Ten dollars here. Twenty-five dollars here. People from everywhere. They all add up. When you get a lot of people doing a little bit, it adds up quick. It trickled in and trickled in and soon you have $17-18,000. We tell people, ‘Don’t let money be the issue for not adopting’.”
Words to live by.