Not all humanitarians are well-known. Some are everyday people performing extraordinary acts of love and kindness, like Carol Donald, who served as a foster parent to 100 children with medical needs in Northern California starting in 1965.
Carol Donald was born with a passion for babies and raising children. Simply stated, it's her life’s calling.
One of five daughters born in Northern California, Donald received her two-year Home Economics certificate in 1942. That same year she married her husband, Richard. They had a son, Edward, and six years later a daughter, Kathy.
As her own children grew up, the doors opened on Donald's dream in 1965, when she attended her daughter's confirmation class and saw two pregnant 14-year-old girls. She wondered, "What happens to those babies?" That night she prayed, and the next morning she saw a newspaper ad for foster parent training.
With her husband retired from the Air Force and her children in high school, the timing was perfect. Donald—ready to accept her mission—answered the ad and forever changed the face of foster parenting.
The challenges of foster parenting in the 1960s were daunting. For a young mother, being unwed and pregnant was socially unacceptable. For the child and foster and biological parent, the transition from foster to adoptive parents was, as Donald puts it, "a death." Social services agencies would take a child from the foster home and send him or her to adoptive parents without notice. Seeing the children's trauma, Donald became an integral part in developing a "partnership"—arranging meetings between foster and adoptive parents, and easing the transition. The foster children called her Grandma, and Donald reassured the children, telling them, "You're going to your new Mommy and Daddy."
Many of the infants Donald fostered suffered from fetal alcoholism or were methadone-addicted. When these babies experienced terrible seizures, Donald would rock them on her chest until the seizures subsided—sometimes for 24 hours—convinced that the babies could sense her love for them.
The passing of her husband in 1985, five days before his 65th birthday, didn't alter Donald's passion for raising children or her determination to give them a fighting chance. She continued to volunteer as a foster parent without her husband at her side for the next 23 years.
At age 85, Donald retired due to a fall where she broke her femur. As always, her primary concern was the children and a worry that she might fall and injure a child. The Jefferson Award, The Juvenile Justice Award and the Concord Human Relations Commission Lifetime Achievement Award are merely a few of the plaques that decorate her wall, gifts of gratitude from her community.
Her foster children stay in touch, attending an annual reunion where they call each other “cousins,” and she feels blessed. "It's a wonderful life I live, and if I had to live my life over I wouldn't do it one bit differently," she says.
Donald's devotion to so many children ignited a love that lights their lives and will be felt for generations. For the rest of us, she demonstrates that it's possible to make a difference in the world, transforming the most ordinary experiences with the power of love.
Love. Pass It On!
This billboard about Love features Carol Donald; foster parent.