A Christmas Miracle
As you travel the long tree-lined driveway to the Bates’ home, you notice a wooden club house adorned with a plaque which prominently declares, “NO GIRLS!” Most visitors begin to smile as they immediately feel the spirit of youth and know they are entering child territory.
Larry and Corry Bates met in high school, were married and had three children. Larry worked as a truck driver and Corry worked as an events coordinator for a local nursing home. In the early 1990’s a nephew was placed in foster care. The Bates’ felt compelled to help their nephew and worked with a St. Vincent Catholic Charities (STVCC) caseworker to become a licensed foster home. They became foster parents and soon after adopted their nephew.
With a deep appreciation for the Bates’ capacity to love and nurture children, STVCC staff asked them to consider being foster parents for other children who were living in crisis. After much contemplation, the Bates agreed. They first welcomed a seven year old boy, named Ricky, into their home. They went on to formally adopt Ricky. Next, they fostered three children who were fortunately able to return home safely to their biological families.
Larry and Corry made a promise to each other that they would adopt any foster child who could not return home to their biological families. They would leave no child without a forever family and a permanent loving home. They went on to adopt the next child in their care, a young boy named Chase.
Meanwhile, in 1998 a boy named Paris was born in Lansing, Michigan. Within a few years Paris had a little brother named Dimere and soon after a baby sister named Heavenly. Life was hard for Paris. At only seven years old he and his younger siblings were removed from their biological home by court order after their mother was accused of attempted murder. She was also under investigation for both dealing and the use of drugs. Paris remembers, “She was asleep all of the time. I would fix my brother breakfast and then when Heavenly woke up I would feed her. Then we would sit and watch TV.” As a first grader, Paris was caring for his toddler brother and newborn sister. The children spent most of their days watching TV, not allowed to leave the home. The children’s fathers were not active in their lives.
In 2005, all three children were removed from the home and entered into foster care. Larry and Corry Bates received a phone call from STVCC, asking if they would take in the three children. The Bates said yes and young Paris, Dimere and Heavenly entered their lives.
The Bates worked with the children’s biological mother and the courts in hopes of reuniting the family. The children returned home on three different occasions and all three times their mother continued her lifestyle with drugs and neglected the children. The third time, the courts terminated her parental rights and the Bates’ applied for adoption. By this time the children’s ages were two through nine and they had known the Bates’ home as their own. Paris described his feelings when he learned the Bates would like to adopt him and his siblings, “I felt good because they took care of us; I knew they would be there for me.”
The adoption of the children was scheduled to take place just following the Christmas holiday. Corry Bates shopped early in 2007 in preparation for a wonderful Christmas. However, in November, Corry had a stroke and was hospitalized. When she awoke from the stroke, she could not feel her legs and could not walk. The Bates’ hearts sank. What would happen to the children? They were fearful that the adoption would not be approved because of Corry’s medical condition. They relied on God’s will. “I told those Doctor’s that I would be home by Christmas,” recalls Corry. The doctor’s estimated a much longer stay in the hospital with a difficult recovery. During Corry’s stay in the hospital the Bates’ extended family surrounded them with support, making sure the children had stability, attended school and made it to their sporting events. Corry worked hard at rehabilitation and returned home on Christmas Eve. It was a Christmas miracle. The adoption was approved shortly after.
Today, Paris is eleven, Dimere is seven and Heavenly is four. They live with their older adoptive brothers Ricky, age seventeen, and Chase, age thirteen. All of the children are actively involved in sports. Paris has been in football for three years. “Coaches have pretty loud voices,” said Paris with a smile. Their home is surrounded by a forest; they have a pool, a volleyball net, a playground set, a basketball court and a tree house. In spite of the “NO GIRLS!” sign, little Heavenly rules this house of boys with energy and spirit. The children have gone from spending most of their days inside watching TV, to being out in the fresh air playing and using their imagination.
When asked what he wants to do when he is older, Paris responded, “I want to be an NFL player or a storm watcher.” Paris excels in science and is intrigued by the force of nature. The Bates support his dreams and after a large storm system moves through Larry drives Paris around to look at the effects. When it rains they combine his two loves and play mud football as a family. Larry and Corry have a nick name for Paris; they call him Paradise because he is always smiling.
Today, Corry is able to walk and her faith is an example to her children. “Family is important and that is what we want to show the kids,” said Corry. Larry agrees, “There is nothing really that matters but the love. If you can share the love, then do it.” Today, Larry and Corry have nine children and seven grandchildren. They feel blessed and know that they have created a legacy of love that will endure for generations.