We were blessed to celebrate Stand Sunday recently, and as National Adoption Awareness Month comes to a close, we’re grateful for the heart of our church family to raise awareness for foster care and adoption. Along with millions of orphans around the world, hundreds await in our own backyard for a “forever family.” Many families at Prestonwood have experienced the joy of adoption, and each have a wonderful story to tell. The story of how the Clary and Sykes families became connected forever through adoption is just one of them.
Waiting for his best friend in the whole world, Dawson Clary—or Dada as everyone calls him—fidgeted as he kept watch for Hannah Sykes. And after what seemed like forever, but was really only a few minutes, he spotted her with her brothers and her mom, walking toward the front doors of Prestonwood.
Sharon Sykes and Amy Clary meet at the Prestonwood KIDZ Indoor Playground for a playdate with their children Hannah Sykes and Dawson (“Dada”) Clary, who lived at the same orphanage in Changsha, China.
Dada sprinted across the tile floor, hugged Hannah before she could even step inside, and they jumped and danced and screamed in words only they could understand. But no wonder. Hannah and Dawson have known each other longer than anyone else in their young lives. And after almost a year apart, they’re back together again.
Hannah and Dada spent their first years together at an orphanage in Changsha, China. They’d been given up by their birth parents because both had significant medical issues—Hannah was born with a cleft lip, and Dawson with a condition that causes fluid to build up in his brain.
At the orphanage, they were inseparable. And then Sharon and Andy Sykes traveled all the way from Lewisville to adopt Hannah as their daughter.
During the adoption process, when they’d received photos of their daughter-to-be, the couple noticed a little boy in nearly every one. And when they visited the orphanage and saw Hannah and Dawson together, “I thought, ‘We can’t leave this boy in China,’” Sharon said.
Even before they left to return home, Sharon began posting photos of Dawson on Facebook, praying and pleading that someone, somehow, would provide him a home near his lifelong friend.
Chris and Amy Clary, a couple now members of the same Bible Fellowship at Prestonwood as the Sharon and Andy, quickly stepped up.
Chris and Amy weren’t planning to adopt. They already had three children – all younger than 4. But when Amy ran into some friends at Chick-Fil-A and saw Sharon’s Facebook photos and saw Dawson’s smile, she realized there was room for another child in her life.
“That’s where I first saw him,” Amy said. “But then, everything seems to happen at Chick-Fil-A.”
Chris initially took a more pragmatic view, she said.
“At first, he was like, ‘Let’s see what God is saying,’” Amy said.
But to her, God was already saying yes, and Chris soon agreed. Now, Amy said, “he’s a real advocate for getting kids out of orphanages.
“With me, he’s like, ‘Hey, we could do this again!’”
Mostly, though, Chris talks with other dads about the possibilities of adoption, she said.
“One of the things he tells them is to quit playing ‘I don’t want to do this’ and thinking instead that ‘I’ve been called to this,’” Amy said.
Playing together, Hannah and Dawson (“Dada”) make up for lost time.
The Clarys traveled to China in late summer to meet their new son and bring him home.
When they met Dawson at the orphanage, Amy gently spoke to him in English.
“I told him, ‘I’ll be your mommy forever.’ And he said something to me in Chinese. I asked the translator what he said.
‘He said, “I know.’”
At Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, the Clarys walked off the plane and found a very excited welcoming committee, including the Sykes family and Hannah in particular.
Dawson and Hannah hadn’t seen one another since she left China 11 months before. But in an instant, it was as if they’d never been apart.
They fell into each other’s arms, dancing, hugging, laughing.
“They must have hugged 400 times,” Amy said. “They kept hugging and getting so giddy that they would fall over.”
“That went on for like 20 minutes,” Sharon said.
The video of their reunion—with a story by Fox4’s Lori Brown, another member of the Uprising Bible Fellowship—hit the Internet and went viral. Their story spread around the world, garnering so much attention that ABC News named the Clary and the Sykes families its “Persons of the Week.”
And the flurry of media attention gave Sharon and Amy an international opportunity to talk about adoption for the millions of children who need families to give them a home and love them unconditionally.
Today, Hannah and Dawson live about five minutes apart. Their families are close and they see each other often.
And Hannah and Dada are still best friends forever.