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Our family first met Isaac, online, when his profile was highlighted on an adoption based website called Reece's Rainbow. He was eligible for adoption in Ukraine, and my husband and I knew that he was meant to be part of our family. Within a year of extensive paperwork, a home study, and fundraising to finance his adoption, we flew to Ukraine in 2016 to meet him in person for the first time and bring him home to Canada. Isaac had been living in an orphanage until the age of 4 but had been transferred to an adult institution, where he had been living with adult men with (dis)Abilities for two years. Unfortunately, this is common practice in Ukraine, and many children do not survive once transferred, particularly those with (dis)Abilities. When we met Isaac, he was extremely delayed in all areas, including speech, intellectual, as well as motor delays. He was malnourished and exposed to neglect and abuse. Without going into too many details, this was not a safe place for him to live by any means, and we are still in shock over how he managed to live as he did for so long.

Once home, Isaac quickly made gains in all areas of development. It was a difficult first couple of years because he had missed out on so many milestones that children reach when growing up in healthy, loving, and attentive home environments. He had to learn how to speak, how to walk, how to eat a variety of foods, play with toys, safely interact with, and bond with others, and how to express his needs (now that he had people who would be attentive to them). He has blossomed through much dedication and perseverance and the aid of many supports, including teachers, therapists, doctors, friends, and family. Once in Canada, Isaac was diagnosed with achondroplasia (the more common type of dwarfism), as well as global developmental delays (which in his case is more of an umbrella term for many other underlying diagnoses). He has had several surgeries, with the most major one being spinal decompression, where a small portion of his lower skull was removed because it was pinching his spinal cord, and allowing for better blood flow. Medically, Isaac is monitored regularly at MacMaster and Toronto Sick Kids mostly for his physical delays and dwarfism, with recent checks to see if his delayed growth could also be due to a hormonal imbalance. Most of his doctors (and teachers) would agree that he is a bit of a puzzle, especially given his history in the orphanage.

Anyone who knows Isaac would agree that he has shown how strong he is, a survivor. He wants to please others and tries his very best in all activities presented to him. He is social, funny, and very caring. I look back at those early years and am in awe of how far he has come. Through Isaac, I have learned to be more patient, non-judgemental, and ultimately he has made us better parents to all of my children (he has two brothers). Going forward, Isaac has lots of plans for his future. He wants to become a "Pizza Man" given that this is his very favourite food. He is learning how to sort and count money, swim, and just have fun being a kid. One of his most exceptional talents is reading, a skill he picked up quickly when coming to Canada. He loves playing Beyblades and recently started building some elaborate puzzles (up to 500 pieces mostly independently!). We are so very proud of Isaac and so thankful that he is part of our lives. Guelph Wish Fund for Children came when we needed it most, and we are so grateful to be able to use this gift for family-oriented activities, which have included Great Wolf Lodge and Medieval Times. It is wonderful to give Isaac and his siblings the experiences we would not have been able to achieve without this gift.

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