As soon as the elevator doors opened, the words “Last one to the door is a rotten egg” immediately rang through the hallway.
Three children — Amor Lucky, Amari Smith and Amil Pryor — immediately spill out of the elevator, round a corner and beeline for their front door. Behind them their older sister Amerie McKay and father Stan McKay slowly saunter to the door, the sounds of childhood giggles bouncing off the walls.
“I guess I’m always the rotten egg,” McKay, 53, quips.
Just nine months ago, McKay took on the greatest challenge of his life: doubling his family. Although Amerie, 11, is his only biological child, Amor, 9, has lived with McKay on and off for most of her life. But after the kids’ mother could no longer take care of them, Amerie asked her dad if he also could foster her brothers Amil, 6, and Amari, 8.
“My daughter looked at me with a look that only a father could know and was like ‘Daddy please,’ ” McKay recalled. As someone who grew up in the foster system, he added that “there was no choice for me. I wanted to keep them all together.”
Although a noble deed, the experience hasn’t been easy. Being a parent to one child is difficult, let alone four. A lot of patience is required. The same goes for time.
“For someone to open up their home and their heart to three additional children who aren’t his biological children to ensure that they weren’t placed in foster care or a foster home, we really thought that was spectacular,” said Kadie Black, the president and chief executive officer of the Voices for Children Foundation, which helps remove the financial burden for guardians like McKay, and nominated him for Wish Book. The chances that the siblings would’ve stayed together were very slim, yet what McKay did was even more rare, Black added.
“I don’t know of another father who was willing to take the siblings of his biological child to ensure that these children didn’t go into a foster home,” she explained.
A former executive chef, McKay eventually moved to assistant general manager just to be able to have more time with his new family. Soon after, however, Amil got sick, causing McKay to miss even more time from work. Eventually, he was let go.
“Whatever funds, money and things I can get goes to food,” said McKay, who now works as a delivery driver. Due to his past career in hospitality, he says that he doesn’t have any assistance from programs like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program because he made too much money. “Feeding four kids? In this economy? And how hungry they always are? That is the most challenging thing for me.”
There were times when doubt crept in, especially when the people in his life — family, friends and everyone in between — called him “stupid” for taking in two additional kids. McKay, however, doesn’t see his growing family as a burden.
“This is definitely a blessing,” McKay said. He recalled how his own experience in the foster system made it imperative for him to keep Amerie and her siblings together. “Now, to be able to pay it forward and be a foster parent for someone else, that’s full circle for me.”
With the holiday season around the corner, McKay wants to give his new family the perfect Christmas but is worried about the funds. He wants to do a family trip to Disney World just to give them time to be kids. Then there are the individual presents: Amerie wants a laptop, Apple Watch and a bracelet-making kit; Amor wants an iPhone, AirPods and a reborn baby doll; Amari wants a PS5 to play with his friends but also needs a tutor; and Amil wants a football and either a bicycle or electric scooter.
“They’ve never really had, like, a break, like a fun break together,” McKay said of a potential trip to Disney World. “Separately, they’ve gone and done things, but as siblings, family wise, they’ve never really had an opportunity to do things like that together. And I think that would be earth-shattering and pretty memorable.”
How to help
To help this Wish Book nominee and the more than 100 other nominees who are in need this year:
▪ To donate, use the coupon found in the newspaper or pay securely online through www.MiamiHerald.com/wishbook
▪ For more information, call 305-376-2906 or emailWishbook@MiamiHerald.com
▪ The most requested items are often laptops and tablets for school, furniture, and accessible vans
▪ Read all Wish Book stories on www.MiamiHerald.com/wishbook