LAKEWOOD RANCH — Jodi Allion’s eyes tear up thinking about the little girl she saw in China who followed her around an orphanage, smiling and waving at every turn.
For more than a year, Allion’s heart longed for that child.
And now, she sits in Allion’s living room as her daughter, Leah.
“After bringing Leah home, I wanted to give back,” Allion says. “I wanted to help orphans who are left behind.”
A year ago this month, the Lakewood Ranch resident began volunteering with Love Without Boundaries, a nonprofit humanitarian organization that assists orphaned and impoverished children in China. Allion works as a foster care coordinator, working behind the scenes — and across the globe — to make sure children in the foster care homes she oversees in Xiao Xian are receiving the medical treatment and attention they need.
Last month, Allion lobbied to help raise funds for the organization through an Internet contest, and on Feb. 1, she learned Love Without Boundaries had earned $25,000 from JP Morgan Chase through The Chase Community Giving Contest on Facebook.com. The organization was one of 100 non-profits to make it through round one of the competition, vying for a chance at $1 million. The $25,000 will go toward helping Love Without Boundaries open another cleft home in China.
A family history
With two grown sons of their own Jodi Allion and her husband, Darryl, had not always planned to adopt a child, albeit two children with disabilities.
Now they wouldn’t have it any other way.
The couple had started praying and talking about adopting a child and researching adoption agencies about three years before Alanna, who had a cleft palate, became their own in November 2004. Of the countless faces of children up for adoption they had seen online, hers had stood out the most.
“We were drawn to Alanna,” Allion says. “We just felt that was the child that was set aside for us. That’s how we got involved in special needs adoption. Everybody wants a ‘perfect’ child, and the special needs children are starting to overflow the orphanages.”
Alanna came to the Allion family at 21 months old. But even with the joy of their new child, the Allions couldn’t shake the memory Leah, whom they had seen only once when they visited an orphanage in China to meet Alanna. This was the child who had followed them fervently.
Because China does not allow pre-identified adoptions, Allion searched online adoption photos relentlessly for a glimpse of the child, making every effort she could think of to locate her. It took about 10 months, but eventually Leah’s picture came up.
“We didn’t know she was deaf or anything about her,” Allion says. “To us, that didn’t matter.”
Each day, Allion casts a glance at her girls as a reminder of what Love Without Boundaries is doing and what she, as a volunteer, can do to make a difference.
Raising Leah and Alanna has been more than challenging at times, but it’s also been very rewarding, Allion says.
“When I see the reports that come through and I look at them, there’s a need for orphans throughout the world, not just in China,” Allion says. “If I can help one family find one orphan, it’s worthwhile.”
For information about Love Without Boundaries, visit www.lovewithoutboundaries.com.
Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].