The Man Who Created World Adoption Day


– There’s donut day, there’s pizza day. – 2013 was the International
Year of Quinoa. – What? – And I love quinoa. – I BB too! – A whole year? How do you even celebrate that? (upbeat music) – I’ve always been
inspired by regular people who decide to follow their passion, and then doing so, end up
having a positive impact on the world, bigger than
they could’ve ever imagined. One of those people is
my friend Hank Fortener. You started a holiday. – Yes.
(laughs) – Tell me about that. – It actually came about
only because it didn’t exist. I think, sometimes, making an
impact feels a lot for people like, “I wanna be a part of
that, I wanna be part of that, “I wanna be part of that.” You can’t stand out just by looking where nobody’s paying attention to it, what does everybody thing
is hard at being done. I had a big personal
experience with adoption. After three of us biologically,
my parents fostered 36 kids, over a seven-year period. We had an amazing family
unit, that focused on taking care of kids that
didn’t have a family. Family never had anything to
do with last names or blood, or color, or DNA, it was
always who was in our home, that we were taking care
of, that’s who family was. We kinda slammed our face into the system, which is not serving kids well. I had a little brother for
three years, his name is Robbie, and just an unbelievable,
unbelievable kid, and we bonded super super fast, he was with us for three years. Then, we got a phone
call and within 24 hours, the police and a social worker came to take him out of our home. So, take a six-year old,
three-year old, four-year old, into the system, send them to different sets
of parents and families. You don’t remember every
house, you just know, “The world is gonna use
me and pass me around.” They turn 18, they’re handed
trash bags to hold their items. Most of the times, sometimes
it’s great programs, the YMCA and YWCA created
some really great programs, but for a minority of these kids. Most of them end up unemployed, most of them end up in prison. That part of the journey
was super difficult for me, and which is part of the
reason what shifted our family into a permanent adoption. So, we had seven years of foster care, and they pursued to do
10 years of adoption, and we adopted eight kids
from six different countries. – Wow. So, we see where your drive for adoption comes from.
– For sure. – And then, from that,
you started a organization called AdoptTogether. – Yeah. AdoptTogether was started as a platform, that helps families
fundraise for their adoption. – Okay. – When we realized it’s so expensive, it could be towards $40,000,
$50,000 to adopt domestically. If you’re a teacher or a cop, if you make 50 or 60 grand
a year, they’re like, “I’ll take a year’s salary in cash.” You know, what’s the percentage
of people that have that? – Yeah. – 86% of people who considered adoption, they just bail. So, we hope that people might
look at the price tag and go, “It’s a sign I shouldn’t adopt.” But they look at AdoptTogether and go, “Okay, it’s a sign we should adopt.” – And from what point, after
starting your foundation, did you realize, “Hey, let’s turn this
thing into a holiday?” – I’m a friend of Scott Harrison,
who started Charity Water. Been an amazing support, and
also a mentor in the process. And every time I would tell
him about what I was doing, he would always say, “Throw a party.” As it turns out, you need
basically cool parties to raise money in the world. So, we’re about to hit our $5 million, just a massive success, for us, that was like way
beyond what we’d imagined. So, we started that in
2012, and then, in 2013, we were like, “We gotta
figure out how to celebrate. “We gotta throw a party.” We’ll do something around
World Adoption Day. And we’re sitting in a room,
talking about the party, and I finally said, “Hey
guys, somebody Google “when World Adoption Day is, or we’ll just do our own adoption day, ’cause it has to be a World Adoption Day.” – There has to exist, right? – They’re sitting there, “Can’t find it.” I’m like, “Okay, could
I have the computer? “Let me show you how the internet works.” (laughs) And I’m looking, and I
make a fool of this person, and then I’m standing there
and the pressure is cooking, ’cause I’m like, “I could
not find World Adoption Day.” And I was like, “We know what to do now. “We’re gonna create World Adoption Day.” And then, I looked at the guys, “Find out if the domain is available,” which, of course, there’s no such thing, so yes, the domain was available. So, we started the domain, got
one of the guys at the table, “Hey, I’m gonna build a site.” We built the site that
night, drew everything up, rocked it and just said,
“Alright, we gotta do it.” I started calling people and saying, “Hey, we’re gonna create
World Adoption Day,” and one of the guys was, “I think you should
touch base with the UN, because they sort of do that.” – Yeah. – And I was, “Definitely,
I should do that.” – That was on my list. – So, I called the UN and I just said, “Hey, I’d like to submit a day
for international observance, which I was super proud of myself for knowing how to say that statement, and he said, “Are you an ambassador?” “You better believe it. I’m an ambassador for World Adoption Day.” And he’s like, “No, are you a delegate?” “Yes, I have delegated myself to make this phone call to you,” and the guy’s like, “That’s
not how this works.” He gives me this line
about how hard it is, and how long it takes, and
you gotta meet these people. I go, “Cool, then I’m just gonna do it, “’cause we’ve already picked a day, “which I was gonna tell you
about, it’s November 9th.” He’s like, “Okay, yeah, if you can do it, “but it won’t be real.” Then I was, “No offense, but this is the International Year of Quinoa, and I’m the only person
that I know who knows that.” – Yeah (laughs). – “So, if I can make it
real, then you and I work out the logistics later,” and he’s like, “Fine. Good luck.” So, we needed some activation, we needed some way to
communicate to people, they were celebrating, give
people a way to celebrate. A lot of ideas came up and
I love a lot of art history, and how art has impacted culture. And there’s a story of
a guy named Harvey Ball. Harvey was an artist 50 years ago, who created the Smiley Face. And I remember that story
and remember those pieces, when somebody said, “We need
a visual, we need an icon, “we need what is World Adoption Day.” For me, having come from
a world where adoption was such a tragic story to begin with, you don’t come to adoption because everything is going smoothly. – Yeah. – You come to adoption
because a birth mother tragically is either not
well or not capable or able of her own volitioncess, “I know I cannot give this child life.” So a child and their mother are separated, that’s where adoption
starts, which is tragic. What adoption does is
redeems that broken feeling, it brings a healing and
hope, joy and a celebration. So I said, “Let’s draw a
smiley face on people’s hands, “and have them post a selfie and say, Happy World Adoption Day.” I wanted to raise- – I love that, it makes you feel good, as soon as you see it, you’re smiling. – Yeah, everything can suck around you, but if for one day, everybody’s gonna say, “Hey, family is everything,
every child deserves a family,” and we’re gonna boost morale
around this conversation that has, otherwise, been
taboo or awkward or uneasy, and you get to celebrate people. We got Shaq to post, so it
got people pumped and excited, since this we’ve had
Ellen and Charlize Theron, and so many people whose
lives have been touched, and they posted a smiley face. It’s 100% participation,
anybody can participate and vote for families and
vote for kids to have a home. I wanted to change the way
people imagined family, and the amount of people who posted this, who said, “Hey, I’m adopted,
I’ve never told my story, “I’ve never told my family
how grateful I am for them.” People posted and said,
“I have a little brother “who’s adopted, I’ve
never told people that.” It’s just extraordinary for me to go, even though all these stories
begin with tragedy somewhere. – Yeah. – For one day, we’re
just gonna celebrate that because of those tragedies. I have my brother Brendon, and
Matthew, and Hope, and Gab. I have these people in my
life because of that tragedy, and for one day, I’m gonna celebrate it. – You basically started a movement. – Hopefully. (laughs) Hopefully. (inspiring music)

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