2000
The Honorable Tom Bliley
blileyAdoption is not just a policy matter, it’s a personal matter for U.S. Representative Tom Bliley.  Many years ago, he and his wife made a meaningful decision that changed not only their own lives for the better, but also the lives of two children.  While Representative and Chairman are nice, hard-earned titles, they can’t measure up to being called Dad.  This title may not convey any power, but its meaning is undoubtedly powerful.  As an adoptive parent, Rep. Bliley knows that adoption is not a one-way street.  Rather, it is a win-win situation where both the child and the parent benefit.  His family’s positive adoptive experience has acted as the catalyst to his efforts to help other families share in the opportunity.  Rep. Bliley worked with U.S. Rep. James Oberstar and former U.S. Senators Gordon Humphrey and Lloyd Bentsen to form the Congressional Coalition on Adoption in 1985.  During his tenure in Congress, Rep. Bliley has sought to increase adoption awareness among his colleagues and the American people by advocating various adoption initiatives.  These measures include tax credits for adoption, adoption awareness promotion, family leave for adoption, formation of the National Adoption Information Center, foster care incentive payments to the State, and aid to orphans and displaced children.  The Coalition will sorely miss the leadership and foresight exhibited by Rep. Bliley.
 
Gail and Larry Cole, Lynette Cole
cole_picture_1_of_2 Cole_Picture_2_of_2Gail and Larry Cole have devoted their lives to the care of children in need.  The Coles have four children, two biological and two adopted.  The Coles’ love for their adopted daughter Lynette and her brother Sean was so strong, that they were willing to give up everything to provide them with a permanent home.  When the Michigan courts refused the adoption because Lynette was of a different race than the Coles, they left their homes, their jobs, everything they knew in search of a place without such barriers.  Inspired by her parents’ example, and strengthened by their love, Lynette went on to be a crowned Miss USA.  She vows to use her title to speak on behalf of children who were not as fortunate as she.  In addition to their truly inspiring adoption store, the Coles have fostered 127 young girls over the past 15 years.
 
Children’s Action Network
Children’s Action Network’s mission is to harness the power of the media on behalf of children.  The organization serves as a clearinghouse for the entertainment industry on children’s issues and works with advocacy organizations nationally to promote policies that benefit children.  Children’s Action Network is currently engaged is a national effort to spotlight the issue of adoption.  The purpose of the campaign is to find permanent homes for the more than 117,000 children who are available for adoption.  They launched this adoption campaign through a CBS television special called A Home for the Holidays, which focused on the joys of adoption.  In addition, Children’s Action Network helped sponsor an adoption event in June in the U.S. Congress.  Past efforts on behalf of children include the very successful National Immunization Campaign, which resulted in the immunization of more than 175,000 children, as well as the Los Angeles Kids Cafes that have served more than 84,000 meals to hungry children.
 
Bertha Holt
Bertha_HoltIn the decades since Bertha Holt and her husband made the choice to open their hearts and home to eight children from Korea, the world of adoption has undergone significant changes.  Several of these changes are due in great part to their tremendous example.  Mrs. Holt’s willingness to challenge the notion that family’s love could be confined by national or racial barriers changed the face of adoption in America.  Because of her courage and tenacity, hundreds of thousands of children from other countries have found families.  Bertha Holt helped the world to realize that there is no such thing as an “unadoptable” child, there are only “unfound” families.  From this day forward, the organization which bears her name will continue to make the dream of a family a reality for every child.  Without her, thousands of disabled and orphaned children would have gone through life never having experienced the healing power of being loved.  There is no way to fully explain the impact this astounding and determined woman had on the lives of children throughout the world.  Perhaps the greatest testament of her legacy is that the children whose lives she touched, either indirectly or directly, will remember her as “Grandma.”  Like a grandmother, she loved them, cared for them and most importantly, she taught them the true meaning of family.  May she rest in peace.