Birth mother Kate Gillen has asked her 16-year-old son, Michael, to be an usher at her wedding. The event will take place at St. Vincent DePaul in Brooklyn Park in June. Gillen placed Michael in an open adoption in 2001. Since then, their relationship has been different things at different times. The two are growing closer as Michael gets older. He is excited to be included in the wedding, and he is sharing that excitement with his friends and family.

Gillen learned of her pregnancy in the summer of 2000, shortly after graduating from high school. When she finally told her mother about the pregnancy, her mother immediately recommended adoption. With the help of her parents and a social worker, she hand-picked his parents from a binder filled with over 100 candidates. She went on to graduate from Southwest Minnesota State University with a bachelor’s degree in English.

After the adoption she sought support from Bellis, formerly the Adoption Option Council of Minnesota. The organization trains volunteers to speak about the benefits of modern adoption. They educate others about health, child development, and family. They aim to clear up the many misconceptions about adoption.  Executive Director Jenny Eldredge says most people are surprised to find out that 90% of infant adoptions are open adoptions. “It’s not always easy,” she says. “It’s like any relationship, with issues and ebbs and flows.”

Gillen is a proud volunteer, board member, and former president of Bellis. She is passionate about they work that they do. She is involved with efforts to help birth mothers deal with the simultaneous feelings of joy and loss associated with adoption. She is currently in marketing at Children’s Minnesota.