After a distant cousin wrote a check to pay for the adoption of a child in Iowa, a woman took it upon herself to help other familieson paper. Brittany Berrie began watching her adopted daughter, Gracie, when she was just a baby for a relative in a troubled relationship.
"When they asked me to watch her for the first time I said, 'absolutely,'" Berrie said.
She was only 20 years old when she started caring for infant Gracie. Soon, the mother began leaving her in Berrie's care for longer periods of time.
"It was days at a time and then weeks at a time and then months at a time. And then by the time she was about 7 months old, it was, 'OK, I'm raising her,'" Berrie said.
When Gracie was 4 years old, the court granted Berrie legal guardianship. But as time passed, both Berrie and Gracie wanted more.
"Because she was my baby," Berrie said of why she sought to adopt Gracie. "I think that even though I didn't birth her, she still grew in my heart… maybe not in my belly, but she was my baby."
The only thing stopping them was the cost. The process of adopting a child can typically cost in the tens of thousands of dollars, which made it impossible for Berrie.
That was until she ran into a distant cousin, Casie Baddome, at a wedding.
"I couldn't believe that was the only thing that was keeping them from being able to adopt. I just said, 'Well, I think I can help with that,'" Baddome said. "If that's all I needed to do was, you know, help write a check, I felt like that was the least that I could do because that was security for the whole family and for Gracie."
Last year, thanks to Baddome's gift, 11-year-old Gracie's adoption was finalized.
"I did not know how to thank her," Berrie said of Baddome's donation. "I spent months trying to write something down or figure out, do I get her something? Like there's no 'thank you' that expresses what she did."
Berrie figured out. With an abundance of donations, she turned her garage into the Adopted Closet thrift store and hatched a "secret plan" to use proceeds from the store to pay the kindness forward.
"I want to pay for the adoptions on National Adoption Day in Scott County, Iowa. All of the remaining balances," Berrie said.
That's exactly what she did — pay all the balances on all adoptions in the county.
"People don't understand how expensive adoption can be," said Jodi Siebler, an adopted child's parent. "We had to wipe out our savings to pay for everything related to this."
The one gift of kindness that made Berrie's family whole did the same for nine other families.
Gracie said she couldn't be prouder of her mother.
"It's great knowing that other people can feel this happiness and feel safe and have all those mothers out there know that their children are their children," she said.