A family is created in love and affection, not because of skin tones or genetics, making it important to be accepting of everyone no matter what their differences are, said Kaitlyn Seager, a 17-year-old South High School senior.
With an undeniable passion, she set out to prove that family is an unspoken bond between individuals beyond just sharing DNA. It was that message that rang strong at Family Fun Day at South High on Sept. 17. Seager, a longtime ambassador Girl Scout with Valley Stream Troop 1070, organized a family-friendly learning experience about foster care and adoption, en route to earning her Gold Award — the highest honor for Girl Scouts. Several agencies set up tables, passing out pamphlets and imparting knowledge to dozens of visitors.
“I am really excited because this is a great cause,” Seager said. “It is something very near and dear to my heart.”
Seager’s younger sister, Kristen, now 11, was adopted at just 9 months old from China. She also knows more than 10 families who have adopted children, and wants others to know the joy of it. “I don’t want people to feel awkward around people who are adopted,” she said.
And not surprisingly, Kristen looks up to her big sister. “It’s really nice that she did this for me,” said the seventh-grade South High student.
Seager started the event planning in April. She had to first submit an application, then undergo an interview to explain her project to Girl Scout leaders. After her idea was approved, she had to obtain a school permit to use the gym.
Susana Isaacson, treatment services coordinator with the county’s Youth Board, contacted Nassau County Department of Social Services Commissioner John Imhof on Seager’s behalf. “The general community does not know about foster care and adoption,” Isaacson said. “This event will give Valley Stream an opportunity to become foster care and adoptive parents.”
Seager invited an adoption attorney, several social services agencies, businesses, family members and friends to come, with more than 50 people attending throughout the day.
Carrianne Franzeso, of Queens, came to support Seager, describing the Girl Scout as “determined, motivated and a hard worker.” Franzeso also wanted to speak to the Nassau County Department of Social Services.
Miss Long Island 2012, Jessica Pinckney, shared her story of being adopted at birth from a family in Texas. She said her parents never hid the adoption from her, and has always felt lucky and fortunate to become part of a new family.
One of Pinckney’s pageant judges, Valley Stream resident Kimberly Thomas, encouraged her to tell her story. Pinckney contacted Seager, lending her support to the cause. “I think this is a great experience,” she said.
Businesses donated snacks and products, purchased advertisements, and offered arts and crafts for children. There was also a photography section for those who wanted some snapshots. What was once Seager’s vision had become a reality, recognized by several officials like Assemblyman Brian Curran. “Kaitlyn is a very impressive young lady,” Curran said. “She put together a huge event that looks to highlight foster care and adoption services in our area. She did an incredible job, and I look forward to attending her Gold Award presentation.”
Seager still has tasks to tend to after the fair. She has to submit an event report to her troop counselor, reconcile her project budget, and complete some volunteer work, including shopping for pajamas to donate to teenagers ages 12-18.
Seager’s mom, Kathleen Kennedy-Leon was very excited. “I am beyond proud of her,” she said, “and she had persistence to make this happen. It’s a big accomplishment.”