JAMESTOWN, N.Y. (WIVB) – It’s the story of the power of a photo and the Jamestown family willing to travel to the other side of the world to save one little girl from a horrible future.
One picture on the internet of the little girl with down syndrome was all it took for the couple with five kids at home to do anything they could to bring her home.
The Spitz family house hold in Jamestown is full. They have eight kids. Five of them are adopted, and three of them have down syndrome.
Summer Spitz said, “People always ask us, “how do you do it? It must be crazy, and they could never do it. But it truly works so well. It’s a well-oiled machine, it just is right.”
But the journey to become this Spitz clan started with one little girl, Lyla.
They fell in love with her picture on Reece’s Rainbow, a site hoping to match potential adoptive parents with kids from other countries who have down syndrome. Spitz said, “There was that little girl with that blonde, fuzzy hair, and I knew immediately that she was meant to be my daughter, and I was meant to be her mom. She was meant to be in this family.”
Kids with down syndrome like Lyla living in Ukraine are often abandoned at birth, deemed worthless by a struggling society that praises appearances.
They’re often institutionalized alongside adults with severe mental illness.
Spitz said, “These children don’t know love, they don’t know kisses, they don’t know birthdays, Christmas…they don’t know anything except laying flat on their back in a crib.”
So they called it “fate” and went forward with an adoption application. But shortly after they were approved, they got a call, Lyla was sick with a heart and lung condition and wasn’t going to survive.
Spitz said, “We didn’t give up. Because we hoped she would get better, and we would still adopt her. But they said she’s in the ICU, the only place she’s leaving is to go to heaven.”
The adoption papers were about to expire. But, it came to them: could they even think about choosing another little girl?
Spitz said, “So I got back on the website and I couldn’t pick. Because I was madly head over heels in love with Lyla.”
But then Dave saw a little girl on the website, named Isabelle. He said, “I don’t know, I just saw something in her face.”
They packed up and headed to the Ukraine to pick her up. Spitz said, “A caregiver comes and she gives you this child, and I held her and I knew immediately. Now here I am thinking I could never love this child, but the second I held her I knew.”
But after they brought Isabelle home, the Spitz’s felt guilty that Lyla was dying in a Ukrainian hospital.
Hoping Lyla would be approved for life-saving surgery, they applied for another adoption application to bring her home. Spitz said, “It’s a lot. It’s a lot of money and it’s a lot of time.”
The application was approved, but the surgery was denied. Doctors there didn’t want to use resources on a child with down syndrome.
They used their approved application to adopt a little boy, Gavin. Dave Spitz said, “We read some notes about people who’d visited that group that Gavin was in. They said how sad he was, and how much he deserved to come home.”
They flew back to Ukraine. When they picked him up, they soon realized Gavin was in the same orphanage as Lyla.
Spitz said, “The day we were going to, they call it “gotcha day,” where we get Gavin out of the orphanage, I finally got up enough courage to ask to see Lyla. The directors brought me into the infirmary and it’s this little room, and it’s the sickest of the sick babies. She was in this corner crib, and they pointed to her, and I had dreamed about this child for two years and there she is, right there, in front of me and there’s nothing I can do.”
But they had to leave. Spitz said, “It was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life, is turning my back on that child who needed us.”
When the got home, they found a doctor in Boston who would perform the life-saving surgery she needed. But with their hands full, they couldn’t afford another adoption application. Then, what they call a miracle happened. They’d been sharing their story with the adoption community on social media.
So within a matter of months, that community raised the $30 thousand they needed to bring Lyla home.
Spitz said, “The little girl who I took the picture of,who I thought was going somewhere else, was coming right here.”
They say everyone is a piece of the puzzle that now makes up the Spitz family, and it was Lyla that brought them together.
Make-A-Wish Western New York sent the entire Spitz family to Disney World last year to celebrate her finally coming home. If you’d like to learn more about the organization head to their website here.
To learn more about Reece’s Rainbow, the organization that helps thousands of kids like Lyla everyday, you can find their website here.