Gary and Holly Spadaro will be celebrating their twentieth anniversary this year. When they were first married in 1994, they planned to start a family at some point in the not-too-distant future. So they tried. When some years passed and Holly didn’t become pregnant, they decided to look into adoption.

They went to adoption agencies, a weekend retreat in Vermont for potential adoptive parents, and did the research. Nothing seemed to click. Then Gary decided that he was going to create his own agency and simply hire a coordinator to do the legwork for him.

There were many questions. Would they adopt a boy or a girl? Should they adopt domestically or internationally? If they decided to go international, what countries should they look at? It was overwhelming, but they wanted to start a family and knew that it would be worth it in the end. “I actively wanted to be a parent,” Gary said to me during a recent conversation with him. “To me, it’s a blessing, not a burden, which is typically the type of response you will get when you are talking to an adoptive parent.”

The focus became international, and the couple decided to look at countries that were open for adoption at the time. They were able to narrow the list down further when they made comparisons about how the children would be cared for once they were born. They preferred a foster care setting over an orphanage and wanted to be in a situation where they would have some control over the process, receive weekly photos, and obtain access to adequate medical records for their new child. They chose Guatemala.

It was June 2000 when they received word that their son had been born, and they received a photo of him on July 4th. He was only a few weeks old, but it would take several more months before Antonio Spadaro would finally come home. Navigating the paperwork and the systems in both countries was painstaking, and Gary and Holly hadn’t been through it before. Christmas came and went, and their boy wasn’t home with them. “It was tough to have a child and know they were yours, but you couldn’t touch him and there was nothing you could do about it,” Gary said. Finally, the Spadaros travelled to Guatemala in January 2001 to pick up their son. Antonio was home on January 8th, and they celebrated a late Christmas that year.

In 2002, they wanted to adopt again. This time they knew what to expect, so they hoped the process would run a little more smoothly. Their daughter, Victoria, was born in May of that year, and they were set to go pick her up in Guatemala. But 9/11 had occurred several months earlier, and they were strongly advised not to travel there. Instead, Victoria was taken to the American Embassy and then flown to Newark, where Gary, Holly, Antonio, and a few other family members went to pick her up. It was a day of jubilation. Their family was complete!

Antonio is now 14, and his sister is 12. According to Gary, the kids don’t take their situation for granted. Sometimes they see fundraisers being done for people in Guatemala who are living in poverty. They seem to realize, even at their young ages, that they have been given an opportunity that not many kids get where they come from, and they are truly thankful. And of course, Gary and Holly are happy to oblige. “So many things had to happen for the stars to align like they did,” Gary said to me when we spoke. “There’s no doubt in my mind that they are supposed to be with us.”

Today, Antonio is in eighth grade, and enjoys sports and music. He plays basketball, football, and the saxophone. Victoria is in sixth grade, and she likes theater and makeup. They are both interested in learning more about their roots one day and will undoubtedly travel to Guatemala sometime in the future. But for now, they are two happy and healthy kids, and the world is their oyster.