Jessie Miller looked at the collection of photos on the wall of The Portico church in downtown Tampa with a wide smile on her face. The framed faces staring back did the same.
“Anthony is such a sweetheart,” she said, looking at a 5-year old boy with glasses and a gap-toothed grin. “He came into foster care as an infant. Had it not been for that beautiful portrait that was taken and being a part of the HEART Gallery I’m not sure how he would found his adoptive family who is so excited to adopt him today.”
Just down the street at the Edgecomb courthouse, Anthony sat in his wheelchair next to Greg and Donna Hart. His new parents raise their right hand and swore to protect their new adoptive son.
“This is something that we spent a lot of time talking about as a family even just with the boys and praying about as a family and this feels whole,” said Greg, who, with Donna, has two biological sons.
The courtroom erupted with applause after the judge pronounced the Hart family Anthony’s new legal home. Dozens of friends and family had gathered to share in the experience.
“Absolutely. He’s such a blessing. He brings out a side of Alex and Tanner, this tenderness, this kindness. It’s just amazing,” said Donna.
The Hart family felt called to adoption. After months of prayer and consideration they began searching for the next piece of their family. They pursued international adoption and other private options but never found the right fit.
Then, they stumbled on Miller’s HEART Gallery.
“To see them finally find a place to belong is the happiest ending for us,” said Miller, who is the executive director of the Children’s Board HEART Gallery of Tampa Bay. At any one time, 60 children’s photos are on display around Tampa Bay at multiple difference sites.
Every portrait is of a child who is available for adoption.
“Kids in the HEART Gallery are three times more likely to be adopted than not,” explained Miller. “That’s why this gallery is so important.”
Accoding to Miller, there are over 100,000 children available for adoption in the United States and 400 in Hillsborough county alone.
The Hart family took advantage of the good intentions of the HEART Gallery. Now, they have a new member of their family.
All three of the Hart boys wore superhero bow ties for the ceremony. Greg explained that the super hero theme idea came from the fact that many of the heroes kids route for in comic books were adopted at some point and became stronger because of the adoption.