Grandville Couple Cares for Children Who Need Surgery
Seated around the table, from left: Dixon, daughter Jillian and husband B.J., son Aaron and wife Leah, Carole and Bob, and son Stuart '06 and girlfriend Erin Bernethy '07.
From childcare to adoption, the Pettijohns are making a difference in the lives of children who are ill.
Since 1993, Robert ‘75 and Carole Gunther Pettijohn ‘75 of Grandville have cared for eight children through Healing The Children, an organization that brings children from impoverished countries to the United States for major surgeries.
“We had three healthy children of our own and felt we had been blessed with the resources available to help someone else who had some needs,” says Carole. “Our faith definitely played a role in our decision to be involved with this exciting venture. We received a lot of moral support and childcare help from individuals in our church family.”
Children from South America and the Dominican Republic have stayed with the Pettijohns for months at a time, undergoing extensive surgeries and recoveries. All medical care and costs are donated; however, families in the organization must provide food and clothing for the children.
Dixon (left), originally from Honduras, has been with the Pettijohns off and on since 1996. He was five years old when he arrived and has had more than 35 surgeries on his vocal cords. The Pettijohns are now his legal guardians and applying to be his adoptive parents.
“Dixon cannot get the proper surgery that he needs to survive in his country of origin, but it is hard for the government to relinquish him just because of that,” states Carole. So the Pettijohns continue to pursue his adoption.
The Pettijohns are thankful for the impact they have had on the children.
“We try very hard to help them medically, emotionally and also spiritually,” says Carole. They send each child home with a photo journal of their experience. “We know that they and their family really value that,” she says.
The Pettijohns are pleased with “the level of growth and maturity” their own children have gained from these experiences and are excited to see how their children might give to others in the future. Their son, Stuart, is a senior at Alma College majoring in biology.
Their example has spread to 11 other church families who have become involved in the organization.
“They got involved because they saw us and saw the impact it had on our family,” says Carole.
— Renee Pietila ‘08