As a retired teacher elementary school teacher from Austintown schools, working with kids has always come naturally to Lynne Horacek. It’s one of the reasons she decided to start volunteering at Akron Children’s Beeghly campus in 2008.
“I like to take the book cart around the units and read to the children and play games with them,” she said.
Prior to her volunteer gig, Lynne was already very familiar and comfortable at Akron Children’s because it’s a place where she brought her son for care throughout most of his young life. Adopted by Lynne and her husband, Paul, at 3 months of age, their son, Daniel, was born prematurely and spent his first 2 months in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
At that time, Lynne had yet to meet Daniel because he was in the foster care system being cared for by a woman named Wendy Blevins.
“I started fostering kids in the 70s,” said Wendy, who has 2 sons of her own. “My husband is a former foster child and we both felt called to help kids in need.”
About 4 years into their fostering experience, they were asked to take a high-risk baby with cerebral palsy who was being discharged from St. Elizabeth’s NICU.
“He didn’t even have a name. Of course, we said yes,” she said. “We brought him home and learned how to feed him. Our son named him Jeffrey.”
About a month into fostering Jeffrey, Wendy got a call that he was being adopted. For a number of years, the boy’s parents, who had renamed him Daniel, sent photos and letters.
“I was just so happy to know that he was adopted into an amazing family and was doing so well,” she said.
After 17 total years of fostering 25 to 30 babies and toddlers, Wendy and her husband recently retired. To fill the void, Wendy began volunteering as a cuddler in the Mahoning Valley campus Special Care Nursery.
“I have so much experience with babies who have been drug exposed or have had other issues so I’m not afraid of fussy babies,” she said. “I enjoy cuddling them, offering them some comfort and helping out the nurses.”
Recently, Wendy was signing out after her shift in the volunteer office when she ran into another volunteer who happened to glance at her name tag.
“I immediately recognized her name,” said Lynne. “I didn’t think she would remember me, but when I told her who I was she instantly burst into tears. I hadn’t seen her in 41 years.”
While Lynne was happy to catch Wendy up on Daniel, she hoped to arrange a reunion so Wendy could see Daniel for herself.
“Dan is a teacher and a coach and is doing remarkably well,” said Lynne, who spent a lot of time at Akron Children’s with her only child for treatment for spasticity and orthopedic surgeries.
On June 8, Lynne reunited Wendy and Daniel during a surprise visit to the hospital. Check out the video below of their heartwarming reunion.
“Dan was eager to do it,” said Lynne. “We brought in some old photos to show Wendy. It was a lot of fun and very moving.”
After chatting with Dan, Wendy learned Dan knew some of her nephews with whom he went to school.
“We found out we have a lot in common,” said Wendy. “I was honored that he would want to come in and meet me. All I ever hope for with any of my foster kids is to give them the best possible start in life. Dan is a remarkable young man, and I was thrilled to get to see him and hug him after all these years.”