GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Smiling and laughing through tears, Sam Bode's new extended family erupted into cheers as they spotted the 4-year-old and his adoptive parents at Gerald R. Ford International Airport.
Moments before, the huddle of grandparents, aunts, an uncle and cousins had grown quiet from nervousness and excitement. Over the past two years, they've only been able to communicate with the cheerful boy via Facetime while his parents, Erica and Jeff Bode, went through the lengthy process to adopt him from Armenia. On Wednesday night, he was officially welcomed into the tight-knit West Michigan family.
Sam, who has Down syndrome, arrived at the airport with the Bodes and their son Jack, 8, after the last leg of their trip home from Armenia. He has spent his entire life in an orphanage.
They were weary from traveling, but their hearts were full. For the Ada couple, bringing Sam home was a joyful end to a chapter marked by heart-wrenching disappointments. They experienced miscarriages and unsuccessful fertility procedures as they tried to conceive a second child. The Bodes eventually decided to adopt and were set on bringing home a special needs child.
"There's just been a hole in my heart for a very, very long time. Of course my husband and my son fulfill me, but I really, truly feel complete now," Erica Bode said.
A visibly tired Sam clutched onto his dad at first, offering a few high fives to his cousins as they approached to say hello at the airport. It wasn't long before a smile broke out across his face and he was tossing a small soccer ball to his new playmates.
(hand clapping - a little free advertising from our favorite baby snatcher)
Erica and Jeff Bode first laid eyes on a picture of Sam at 9 months old. He was a sweet-looking baby with a full head of black hair and big, brown eyes. A description and photos of him were posted on Reece's Rainbow, a grant foundation that promotes the international adoption of children with Down syndrome. They adopted him through Hopscotch Adoptions, an agency based in North Carolina.
"The one [photo] that kind of sold it was he was playing with a ball and that's exactly what our son was like when he was little," Jeff Bode said.