Stepping in to adopt, man creates stable home for two boys

Allentown, Pennsylvania Friday May 1, 2020

Life has a habit of taking you by surprise and leading you in unexpected directions. Just ask Brad Heckman …

“That statement couldn’t have been truer than the day I learned my uncle had died, leaving his two adopted sons without a parent. Just three days later, my life as a 41-year-old, single male took a sudden turn: I welcomed 10-year-old Chris and 7-year-old Jacob into my home, committed to ensuring they would not return to the foster care system and keeping them within the family,” he says.

“To say everything happened so fast would be an understatement. Up until this point, I was responsible for just myself. Now, these two little boys, who already had been through so much in their short lives, looked to me to provide a loving and stable home. Fortunately, I have a life partner in my girlfriend, Kristen Lightbody, who understood and supported my decision.

“They may not be biologically like me ... but we are family ...”

“Within a month of their arrival, it was pretty clear the boys were not performing at their grade level in school. The previous lack of structure in their home life had put them at a disadvantage and they initially pushed back at our efforts to help. But now, more than a year and a half later, they are getting As and Bs and even winning awards. It is neat to see how far they have come, when for some time they didn’t understand the importance of doing homework and didn’t want to do it,” Heckman adds.

In fact, the boys “have been full of surprises, every day accomplishing something new. There is no better feeling than seeing them on a path that lets me know I’m doing the right thing for them. From the beginning I have wanted them to feel confident that I am here to help, no matter what the problem may be. While they may have been hesitant at first to open up to me, we share ‘Dad, can I talk to you for a moment,’ and multiple hugs each day.”

Heckman officially adopted Chris and Jacob one year after they moved in. And, “almost two years in, they are my boys, and I love them. They may not be biologically like me, and they don’t think like me, but we are family. With every experience—good and bad—I have never wavered in my decision to adopt them.

“I like to think about the day when we will go to graduation, and they will receive diplomas. As much as I will cry remembering our struggles to get them to read and practice math, it will be a proud moment knowing I accomplished what I set out to do—to raise them to be good, decent men who can provide for themselves and, one day, their own children, without the help of the foster care system.”

Brad, Kristen, Chris and Jacob live near Allentown. With their grandparents as next-door neighbors, the boys benefit from lots of family time.


Give Local York is a 24-hour giving day, supporting nonprofit organizations and growing philanthropy in York County, Pennsylvania. Donors will have the opportunity to give online May 1 and have some of that donation matched by Stretch Pool funds for Diakon Adoption & Foster Care throughout the region.

Stretch Pool funds will be shared by all participating nonprofits receiving donations during Give Local York. The amount received will be proportional to each organization’s percentage of the total funds raised during the event. For example, if an organization raises 2% of the total funds contributed through Give Local, it will receive 2% of the available bonus funds.

Visit Diakon Adoption & Foster Care’s Give Local page to make a donation. You will have 24 hours to make your donation, with the special giving event ending at 11:59 p.m. May 1.

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