MMA fighter Michael Chandler and his wife, Brie, shared an extraordinary gift with those close to them this holiday season. They took their newly adopted son, Hap Whitaker, to meet extended family and friends in St. Louis and Columbia over Thanksgiving. The Chandlers live in Tennessee and have wanted to adopt for a while, but the call came much sooner than expected.

It took about a year for the couple to go through all the red tape that goes along with adoption. There was paperwork, fingerprints, background checks, and a home study. They finally got the email that said the process was complete and they were officially approved to adopt. The phone rang six minutes later. The voice on the call said, “Hi, my name is Courtney. I’ll be your consultant moving forward and by the way, there’s a child in Dallas who we think matches your preferences perfectly, and you match the birth mother’s preferences perfectly.” One look at the photo and they knew he was their son. They spoke with the birth mother and decided to meet.

Then Michael and Brie spent two and a half weeks in Dallas going through ICPC  (Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children) protocol. It’s an approval process between the different states involved in the adoption. They chose to name their new son Hap Whitaker. The name is a combination of Hap Whitney, an old Mizzou wrestling coach Chandler had, and a lovely man they met in a diner over a conversation about French toast.

The Chandlers knew they wanted to adopt and also have kids biologically. Michael made the decision later in life, but Brie had wanted that since she was a teenager. As a youth she volunteered at “Granny’s House,” a program like Big Brothers/Big Sisters. She spent lots of time with the kids, some of whom would try to go home with her because they had no real family to speak of. That experience stayed with her.