Highlights of the 2018 Gala: An Evening Celebrating Family

gala-roomSpence-Chapin’s 2018 Gala on Thursday, May 3rd was themed, “Every child deserves a family”—a guiding principle of the organization over its 110-year history. And while the event truly reflected this concept, it presented it through the lens of creating family, highlighting the many varied and beautiful ways in which we all build family.

Hosted at the lovely Current at Chelsea Piers in New York City, the event featured a silent auction, cocktail hour and dinner overlooking the Hudson River.  Returning for his second year to preside over the evening was NBC New York’s Storm Team 4 weatherman, David Price. Opening the program with some lively quips and wit, Price then introduced Spence-Chapin’s President & CEO, Adam Cotummacio, to set the tone of the evening.

Adam C and Dave PriceMr. Cotummacio spoke about the ways in which each family uniquely creates their own special environment—maybe through a set of household rules over chores or watching tv that may seem strange to the outsider, or through traditions that are set up and done every year without question—and in this way, begins to build family, that sense of belonging and safety.

Hardie Stevens then took the stage, an entrepreneur and adoptee through Spence-Chapin. Mr. Stevens spoke about the significance of adoption as a lifelong experience and the unique ways it has shaped his view of family.

Family filmSpence-Chapin then premiered its short film, “Family,” which chronicles how Spence-Chapin helps to form loving, nurturing and permanent families through its domestic, international and special needs adoption programs; its Granny and Interim Care Programs that provide ongoing care for infants and children; and its unbiased counseling for pregnant women and birth parents as they navigate different options available to them.

Featured prominently in the film is Spence-Chapin’s very own family member, Antoinette Cockerham—an employee with Spence-Chapin for 25 years and the recipient that evening of its Lifetime Achievement Award. Ms. Cockerham, or “Toni” as she is known among friends, served as Director of Domestic Programs at Spence and helped to create hundreds of families through adoption during her tenure

Toni-awardSpence-Chapin Board President, Ian Rowe, presented the award to Ms. Cockerham and said of few words about his and his wife’s own journey in an open adoption through Spence-Chapin, and the beautiful family that they have created. In her gracious acceptance remarks, Ms. Cockerham pointed to the many challenges that still lie ahead and the important work that Spence-Chapin must continue to do, and can accomplish, with support.

CK SwettThat support became palpable as Celebrity Auctioneer CK Swett took the stage and led a direct pledge moment that helped raise $80,000 for the organization’s programs in just a few minutes. It was a spectacular outpouring of support for the work that Spence-Chapin has done in its extended history and will do in the future.

Later that evening, Mr. Cotummacio reflected on the whole of the evening, and the integral role Spence-Chapin has been able to play in the lives of so many children and families:

“Spence-Chapin is truly a unique organization. This year’s Gala was dedicated to the work we have done serving as part of the connective tissue to thousands of families throughout our 110-year history. The event enabled us to celebrate family and open-adoption in all its intricate, loving, challenging and wonderful forms. I am forever grateful to our amazing staff and the impact they deliver each day the Spence-Chapin Way by helping to create strong families and by providing women in crisis with the support and counseling needed to make informed decisions about their options.”

Spence-Chapin is appreciative to its Gala Committee, Board of Directors, attendees and supporters for making this night successful and wonderful. Please make sure to view the photos of the event and the featured short film, “Family.”

African-American Adoption Benefit 2010

Spence-Chapin’s 20th African-American Adoption Benefit will take place on Thursday, May 20. This year, supporters will get to see the critically acclaimed performances of Denzel Washington and Viola Davis in August Wilson’s Fences. It is one of Wilson’s extraordinary plays chronicling the African-American experience through each decade of the 20th Century. Proceeds from the benefit will help fund the agency’s African-American infant adoption program offering services for birth parents, adoptive parents and adoptees.

Spence-Chapin has long been a leader in African-American infant adoption. In the 1940s, Gladys Randolph, former director of Social Work at Harlem Hospital, brought the issue of boarder babies languishing in her community without families to the attention of Spence-Chapin. The agency started a program in 1946, challenging the then-popular notion that African-American families were not interested in adoption and developed an impressive track record,

In 1953, Mrs. Jackie Robinson, wife of the famous baseball player, was elected to the Spence-Chapin board of directors and served as a spokesperson to help the agency recruit families. Throughout the 1950s, other illustrious African Americans who helped to recruit families included Mrs. Ralph Bunche, Marian Anderson, and Mrs. Hubert Delaney. In support of the agency’s outreach efforts, Eleanor Roosevelt was the featured speaker for a Spence-Chapin conference in 1954. Mrs. Roosevelt was quoted in the New York Times as saying, “No matter what the color of their skin, all our children must be looked at as the future rich heritage of the country.” One in every six children adopted through the agency that year was African American.

In 1991, families who had become parents through the African-American Program formed the Spence-Chapin African-American Parents Advisory Committee, known as AAPAC. The group, which welcomes all families to join, provides input on matters concerning African-American adoption, and brings families together for social networking. One of the extremely positive outcomes has been the close ties formed by members and their children, and the sense of community among families who have adopted African-American children. AAPAC has also been instrumental in developing ideas on adoptive parent recruitment, organizing the annual African-American Family Day Picnic, and in raising funds through special events to help those families who have unusual expenses or circumstances with adoption costs.

Today, African-American adoption services continue to be a cornerstone of Spence-Chapin’s domestic adoption program. Over the past 20 years, the agency has placed close to 700 African-American babies.

Korea35 Celebration

korea35 logo

This weekend – April 23 through April 25 – Spence-Chapin will host a family gathering to mark 35 years of adoption from South Korea, its partnership with the Social Welfare Society (SWS); and finding permanent families for more than 2,600 infants and children.  To read about the history of Spence-Chapin’s program, click here.