The ninth Annual Catholic Charities Adoption Picnic at Moss Park in Orlando on March 17 looked like any family picnic with hot dogs, hamburgers and games. But far more than that – all of those gathered have sacrificially welcomed life – it was a sacred, holy reunion.

“The picnic is a beautiful opportunity for birth families and adoptive families to celebrate adoption together,” explained Leesa Elliott, Adoption Services Counselor for Catholic Charities of Florida. “It’s very reassuring to the birth families to see how well the child is doing. At least once a year, we can see our families joyfully celebrating the gift of adoption.”

Five-month old Shaan Patrick Sharma’s whole face was a smile that captured the hearts of his birth mommy as he tugged at her hair, his teenage uncle, grandfather and grandmother. His adoptive parents proudly watched and freely offered tidbits of his personality and antics.

“I’m glad that he has a good home,” shared birth mom Kaylee. “They’re such wonderful people – they love him so much. It means a lot that I get to be a part of his life. It would have hurt me not to know him.”

Sandeep and Sarah Sharma waited 14 years to welcome their first child and now all of life revolves around Shaan.

“He is a blessing,” Sarah said. “The best baby I’ve ever seen. Everybody always comments how happy he is and how alert. He’s completely changed our lives.”

Sandeep has been able to arrange his work so that he can stay home to care for Shaan. “He requires a lot of attention and it can be difficult to work,” Sandeep said, “but I make it happen. I love him more than anything – he’s my buddy!”

Grandma Aimee credits her Catholic faith with her respect for life and the way that she has helped her daughter during the pregnancy and subsequent adoption. It was she who found the Sharmas on the adoption website and liked their profile.

“I was hoping Kaylee would decide on an open adoption,” Aimee said. “I wanted to be a part of his life. It is a gift.”

Six-year old Lauren couldn’t wait to join the other children, providing the opportunity for her birth mother and adoptive parents to talk.

“Lauren came into our lives while Mallory was carrying her,” Joy explained. “We’re complete, more purposeful – it is meant to be. Since Lauren has been in our lives – she’s our mission. She’s why we’re here.”

Lawrence agreed with all Joy said and included. “We’re blessed.”

“It’s special for me,” Mallory said. “I didn’t think I’d have the gift to see her like I do. Her smile is a compelling reason to be here.”

There were many families, so many stories at the picnic. The Sharmas expressed it well.

“We are blessed,” Sarah said. “It’s different than I thought it would be. I’ve always been comfortable with them, but it’s almost like now we’re a part of their family too. I can’t think of any child more perfect for us.”

“I’m glad that Shaan has so much love in his life. I’m happy, blessed that growing up, he’ll feel loved all around,” added Sandeep.

By Laura Dodson, Florida Catholic correspondent – March 20, 2018