Just yesterday I was explaining to my kids that next week we’d be driving to visit my in-laws for Thanksgiving. It’s a 5-hour drive and everyone gets to feeling a little squished after so much togetherness.

I heard moans and heavy sighs. I saw rolling eyes and feet digging into the carpet.

My reaction was one that’s probably familiar to many of you… “You have no idea how lucky you are to have a loving family!” and “Do you know how many people don’t have grandparents to visit on Thanksgiving?” and more of the same.

All these thoughts were fresh in my mind because of how I’d spent my day on Monday. I am lucky enough to be a volunteer photographer for Adoption Resources of Wisconsin. I offer free senior portraits to teens in the foster care system, as well as family portraits of foster and adoptive families. I’m also privileged to help with special events through ARW. Monday was one of those days.

I arrived at the State Capitol in Madison to help honor families and volunteers, recognized by the State of Wisconsin, as being outstanding volunteers through DCFS and Adoptive Parents of the Year. I was able to meet children, parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and friends. I met judges and congresspeople and directors. All of these people came together to celebrate families that are whole – made complete by the love of the individuals who opened their hearts and homes to children who needed a safe place to land. These families were supported along the way by people who knew what they were going through – both the children and the parents. I knew, as I watched these families, that they didn’t take it for granted. They knew the amazing gift of togetherness even though it may have not come easily or in the traditional way. They have each other, and that’s enough.

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