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WACO, Texas (Nov. 30, 2017) – As families walked through the doors of the makeshift courtroom at Baylor Law School , they were greeted with unfamiliar sights and sounds. Court officials traded their traditional suits and ties for cloaks and robes, and many wielded lightsabers. Among the witnesses for the day’s events were a host of Jedi, Stormtroopers and an occasional Wookie.
Baylor Law School hosted the 10th annual McLennan County Adoption Day on Nov. 17, and the Star Wars theme was a hit for the hundreds of people who attended to celebrate the legal adoptions of 33 children into their new families.
In the words of Master Yoda, “Truly wonderful the mind of a child is.”
Kevin and Marci Cherwinski are among the many families filled with excitement and anticipation on that Friday afternoon. The Cherwinskis have fostered three young girls − Melanie, Stephanie and Shelby – for more than a year. The family’s adoption was made official on Adoption Day.
“All along I felt that this day was going to happen,” Kevin Cherwinski said. “There was always a trace of doubt that something might fall through and go wrong, but for some reason I really felt this day was going to happen. It is just a wonderful day to know these girls are legally ours and share our last name.”
After the proceedings in the courtroom ended, the three girls excitedly clung to their parents and relatives. Lightsabers in hand, the Cherwinski daughters twirled around in their dresses and squealed with delight.
“I’m excited for my forever family,” Shelby Cherwinski said.
Outside the courtroom, the law school hallways were adorned in Star Wars-themed banners, decorations and balloons. Law students – who helped organize, decorate and staff the event – roamed the pathways dressed as Jedi, Yoda and R2-D2.
“It’s awesome that we can turn this process into a fun event,” said Juan Antono, a law student disguised as a Stormtrooper. “Instead of just going into a serious courtroom and going through the legalities, we can make this a memorable event for both the parents and the children. Our hope is that they will look back on this day with smiles for many years to come.”
Memorable it was. Children in balloon hats ran around the courtroom, foam sabers in one hand and giant lollipops in the other. Adoptions were finalized and families shed tears of joy and took photos with the judge.
“Adoption Day at Baylor Law School gives adopting families a dazzling and fun-packed venue in which families are created,” said Brad Toben, Baylor Law School dean. “Professor Bridget Fuselier and dozens of our students spend countless hours to create indelible memories for adopting families and the children who have waited for a family to call their own. We were especially delighted that Mrs. Sheila Umphrey served as a grand marshal of the day and shared her family’s three-generation miracle of adoption. Sheila and Walter created a special and endearing family legacy through the blessing of adoption.”
Ten years ago, Bridget Fuselier, professor of law, founded the Adoption Day program when she hosted an event to celebrate the adoption of 15 children in McLennan County. Since then, the event has celebrated the official adoptions of 255 children.
Fuselier said an event in her early law career changed her life and kindled her passion for adoption.
“I had the opportunity to handle an adoption for a family on Adoption Day,” Fuselier said. “The little boy had been neglected since birth until he was placed with his foster parent. This woman gave him the love and care he needed and wanted to be his ‘forever family.’ She just needed a few hours of my time to do the legal work to make that possible. It was such a direct, positive impact on the life of that family that it has stayed with me all these years later. I love being able to give these families the joyful celebration they truly deserve.”
by Brooke Battersby, student newswriter, (254) 710-6805
ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 17,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.
ABOUT BAYLOR LAW SCHOOL
Established in 1857, Baylor Law School was one of the first law schools in Texas and one of the first west of the Mississippi River. Today, the school has more than 7,400 living alumni. It is accredited by the American Bar Association and is a member of the Association of American Law Schools. Baylor Law School has a record of producing outstanding lawyers, many of whom decide upon a career in public service. The Law School boasts two governors, members or former members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, two former directors of the FBI, U.S. ambassadors, federal judges, justices of the Texas Supreme Court and members of the Texas Legislature, among its notable alumni. In its law specialties rankings, U.S. News & World Report ranked Baylor Law’s trial advocacy program as #4 in the nation. Baylor Law School is also ranked #55 in the magazine’s 2017 edition of “America’s Best Graduate Schools.” The National Jurist ranks Baylor Law as one of the “Best School for Practical Training,” and #4 in the nation in its most recent “Best Law School Facilities” listing. The Business Insider places Baylor Law among the top 50 law schools in the nation. Baylor Law School received the 2015 American Bar Association Pro Bono Publico Award, making it only the third law school in the nation to be honored with the award since the award’s inception in 1984. Learn more at baylor.edu/law.