Inspiration Information — Donna Goad & Linda Dillard

by aaron on August 15, 2010

“A disability will only limit a person’s ability to love if you let it.” –Linda Dillard

I love this week’s story for many reasons.  First of all because it concerns the amazing story of two mothers who between them have adopted and raised more than 700 children over the past 32 years.  Second because these two mothers are twin sisters.  And third, because this story comes directly from avid reader Hannah, who is herself a daughter of these two inspiring ladies (thank you so much Hannah for sharing your family’s story with us).

Identical twin sisters Donna and Linda grew up in Ashland City, Tennessee to a family of strong christian faith.  They watched as the daughter of their oldest sister, Angel, struggled with a rare birth condition that caused fatty tissue in her body to grow too rapidly.  Over the 36 years of her life, Angel underwent 50 operations that impeded her ability to walk.  She required constant care from her mother and Aunts.  But she was an amazing woman — incredibly happy and immensely loved.

Caring for their niece was just the beginning of what would become a mission to foster the fragile.  “We saw how much joy Angel brought” says Donna Gould.  From that point on they urged their parents to foster and adopt the children no one else wanted — in particular the special needs and disabled.  At the same time, both sisters went into the field of medicine, become licensed nurses in order to tend the sickest of kids.  And they both married men who would support their passion of caring for the weak and forgotten.

It has been an incredible family affair.

They’re mother Adele Harp was a strongly compassionate community crusader herself, who spent many nights cooking and cleaning for other families when people got sick or lonely.  And Grandmother Harp raised many of her own adopted children, loving each as much as her own.

Now 53, the sisters have cared for hundreds of disabled children.  These are kids born with a host of challenges ranging from severe autism, to missing organs and brain damage.  The kinds of children that require constant attention and unbelievable amounts of patience and love.  You hear horror stories of parents who have to battle the life-draining obstacles of raising a disabled child.  The hardship, the effort, the pendulum swings of high hopes and deep despair.  And that’s just one kid.

The Dillards currently have nine children, seven of whom are adopted, five disabled.  The Goads have three, all adopted — two of who are handicapped.  And neither sister sugarcoats for a second.  Everyday is a challenge.  Most nights are long and sleepless.  There are frequent hospital and doctors visits.  Emergencies are weekly events.  In the last 32 years, they have buried 5 children.

And yet it’s all worthwhile.  Donna and Linda are protecting what they consider God’s children.  They are giving love and life to those who otherwise wouldn’t stand a chance otherwise.  In their own words: “It doesn’t matter if you have one year to live or 10 years, these children shouldn’t have to be miserable or go unloved.  They are our babies.”

Much respect and praise goes to the Harp, Dillard and Goad families who between them have raised a village of bright young kids, and who continue to be foundations of inspiration and love to everyone they touch.  Including now all of you.

You can link to the local Tennessean news article for more inpirational details about Donna and Linda here (all photos credited to John Partipilo / The Tennessean).

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