Couple aims to adopt special-needs girl

Published 9:01 pm Saturday, September 29, 2012

Kristen and Andy Weatherford are grateful after North Suffolk restaurateur Ricardo Perez made a substantial donation to help them adopt a special-needs child from Eastern Europe.

A young North Suffolk couple sacrificing to raise enough money to adopt a special-needs child from overseas recently found an angel in their midst — and he serves up a mean burrito.

Kristen and Andy Weatherford, both 30, met on a blind date in April 2008 and married in October 2010.

They rescued two “fur kids” and volunteer to foster other homeless dogs; but the otherwise very happy couple felt their life was missing someone, Kristen Weatherford wrote on the couple’s blog.

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The former special education teacher, now working as a consultant and trainer, went online and discovered Ava, a child with Down syndrome and “big blue eyes” languishing in an Eastern European orphanage.

The Weatherfords decided to adopt Ava before trying for biological children so they can give her the undivided attention she needs.

They’ve raised a little over half the estimated $40,000 needed to get her home.

“She’s in a mixed-baby house” with both special-needs and non-special-needs children, Kristen Weatherford said. “She gets three meals a day, but of course she’s over a year old now, and it’s still formula through a bottle, and she’s probably not getting any therapies.”

Weatherford says orphanage conditions in the country, disclosure of which could jeopardize Ava’s adoption, vary significantly between facilities and even within facilities when crib placement determines how much interaction a child gets.

So for the Weatherfords, who with the red tape involved will need to travel abroad three times to adopt Eva, fundraising is crucial.

Enter restaurateur Ricardo Perez. He was haggling over a dish at the Weatherfords’ Sept. 8 fundraiser yard sale when Kristen, recognizing him as the man who sometimes refills her soda at La Parrilla in Harbour View, the Weatherfords’ favorite Mexican restaurant, told him of Ava and the cost of adoption.

“I really had no idea he was the owner — we go there all the time,” Kristen Weatherford said.

“He got really serious. ‘Tell me about this,’ he said. ‘How much is it going to cost?’

“He said, ‘I’m going to write you a check.’”

Kristen had hoped to generate $3,000 from the sale, halfway toward the $6,000 extra needed for the first trip.

Perez said he would donate $1,000 for each of his restaurants — Harbour View La Parrilla, a second La Parrilla going in off Bridge Road and the Three Amigos he shares with his brother in Chesapeake.

Together with the proceeds from the yard sale, whose target was met, the first trip is funded.

“What happened at our yard sale affirmed our belief that there are no coincidences in life,” Kristen Weatherford said. “Everything happens for a reason, and our yard sale was a beautiful example of that.”

The Weatherfords had hoped to have Ava home for Christmas, but after adoption regulations changed in the country they’re dealing with, early next year is the new hope.

“In our hearts she’s already our daughter,” Kristen Weatherford said. “We just want to get her home as early as possible.”

Perez said, “It does not bother me to help someone. When it comes to little kids, I always help.”

He said he had dropped by the yard sale, where he bought some glasses and a couple of other things, to kill time after arriving to the restaurant a little early.

The Weatherfords have taken on frugal lives to fund Ava’s adoption. Kristen Weatherford said that while they once ate out regularly, often at La Parrilla, they now settle for Easy Mac and movie rental.

Andy Weatherford said he was “overwhelmed” by Perez’s generosity, adding, “I guess the first emotion was complete shock that someone would be that generous to do this for us.”