Since Sept. 11, 2014, Helen Zeerip’s idea of giving hope to foster children through a personalized video aired on television, has grown, gathered momentum and supporters and expanded! And, every year, without fail, we hear how our videos lead to adoption.
Year 1 – Founding & Launching Grant Me Hope
- When Helen Zeerip learned that upwards of 600,000 children spend time in the foster care system each year, AND (of them) there are consistently 125,000 (roughly) available for adoption; AND (of them) more than 23,000 age out annually; AND 25 percent of them become homeless at that time, she was spurred to action! Grant Me Hope and our high-quality, personalized videos of foster children is the result. Read more about why we do this.
- Helen called on Barb Aalderink, owner of Fusion Graphic Consultants, and Jeanette Hoyer, then Executive Director of Pathways MI to help get her idea off the ground. Learn about GMH’s origins.
- The state of Michigan uses the Michigan Adoption Resource Exchange as a way to photo-list those foster children who are available for adoption. We work with MARE to tape the children they know most need our help.
- Catherine Behrendt from Grand Rapids’ WZZM – Channel 13 liked the demo and agreed to play the videos of foster children. The first video aired January 6, 2015! WZZM and Catherine remain strong supporters.
- In April 2015, WXYZ, Channel 7 and reporter/newscaster Alicia Smith jumped on board to help Michigan’s Foster children find families! The first child aired April 10, 2015, in Detroit. Our states largest television market was seeing our foster children!
- And, as a result, the first child whose profile aired, received 19 inquiries! This was a child who had no interested parents prior to the video airing! It was an exciting affirmation of our founder’s idea and our mission!
- Helen knew that if she, a foster parent for 14 years and two-time adoptive parent did not know the staggering statistics that follow aged out foster youth, then precious few people do. So she started talking to anyone who would listen! Whether, a church, a Rotary, a motorcycle club, it really doesn’t matter, we will schedule it!
- Several months after Grant Me Hope’s launch, we heard the news that the very first child we aired on WZZM was adopted! Our mission was working!
Year 2 – “It’s a national problem”
- We started our second year strong with the addition of the TV news station 9&10 News, WWUP, which airs in Cadillac, Traverse City and Sault St. Marie. We were on our way to having television coverage around the whole state!
- WCPO in Cincinnati agreed to partner with us and air our foster children. Our first child received FIVE inquires as the result of that TV spot!
- In the spring of 2016 Annette Manwell was volunteering for Grant Me Hope in her spare time. “Netty” first met Helen when she wrote a story for The Holland Sentinel about the start of Grant Me Hope. With both Grant Me Hope and Helen’s business, Teddy’s Transport, getting quite busy, Helen decided she needed a personal assistant and offered Netty the job. *We’ve been a great team ever since!*
- Helen continued with her mission to speak to anyone and everyone who would listen to her, whether church, civic group, or a business lunch, so group was too big, no group was too small. In almost every case, it led to a connection, whether a volunteer, a sponsor, a collaborator, or, in some cases, to a family becoming a foster or adoptive family.
- It was clear in 2016 a major fundraising event was going to be necessary to sustain our mission. Through her speaking and her networking, Helen put together a volunteer team to develop a new and fun event. During a meeting though, a volunteer suggested decals on the back of Helen’s Teddy’s Transport trucks. “I thought it was a great idea!” Helen said. But she also thought it would be great if her competitors got on board. Many did! It was dubbed “Going National” because these trucks would take Grant Me Hope’s mission to our nation’s highways.
- We learned about another adoption in which our video played a role! Our mission was working, one foster child at a time!
Year 3 – 2017 – Busy, exhilarating even!
- A rather eventful 2017 started with huge news at the end of 2016! At the end of December, the Michigan Masonic Charitable Foundation called with the news that it would fund our grant request to hire our first full-time employee! We were giddy: A full-time employee dedicated to growing Grant Me Hope!
- Helen hired Marilyn Sullivan Cudahy for the position. She came to GMH with a huge heart for children and a volunteer for CASA. Marilyn developed our Celebrating Hope dinner auction and built up a funding plan that we continue to use parts of today. Marilyn has since moved on, but her heart for children is strong!
- While speaking to a Rotary group, Helen met Victor Vandeventer, who worked for the local TCT (Total Christian Television network) channel. He became our liaison with TCT which started playing one-minute cuts that were designed to public service announcements in both Michigan and Ohio!
- The team attended the Christian Alliance for Orphans summit in 2017. The conference was held near Nashville, Tennessee. It was a powerful confirmation that GMH was on the right track to help get our foster children adopted before they age out!
- Sinclair Broadcasting Group agreed to join our mission and play the videos of our foster children in their Dayton, Ohio, market! WKEF, ABC 22 started playing our videos in June 2017! The market served Montgomery County and surrounding communities.
- WRGT, Fox 45, was the second Dayton, Ohio, station! That year, Montgomery County reported a dramatic increase in the number of people attending the monthly foster care and adoption classes. They attributed it to Grant Me Hope’s videos airing on local television. One month, attendance more than doubled the average!
- Grant Me Hope was invited to speak to nearly two dozen audiences in 2017, including the popular St. Ignace Truck Show where we worked to sell “Going National” truck decals. After each, our social media pages all grew with more followers and our website received more views!
- Our third year ended as it started, with amazing and much-needed news: our work lead to another adoption and this time, the family agreed to share their story. Our video made all the difference in Kendal’s adoption!
Year 4 – A movie about adoption?
- In 2018, “Instant Family” was released. Not only was this a major motion picture with very popular stars, it also dug into the need of adoption through foster care! But not just that, adoption of teenagers and sibling groups! The movie was real and raw and based on a true story. Grant Me Hope hosted a private viewing fundraiser at Celebration! Cinemas Rivertown. It was wonderful to see the need come alive on the big screen.
- We are always looking to expand our reach, especially through local TV news stations. We were very excited to add WLAJ to our Michigan roster. The station covers the Lansing and Jackson, Michigan, markets.
- 2018 was a big year for reaching people! Grant Me Hope presented its mission to more than 30 audiences, whether a large church with a few hundred people or a car club with a couple dozen, we educated people about the need at every opportunity we had!
- Funny story: Helen was asked to visit Harlem Reformed Church in West Olive. Grant Me Hope had spoke to the church in the past. While there on this particular Sunday, a Bethany Christian Services’ movie production called “Light in Their Eyes” was played. The movie followed three couples through the adoption process. One couple adopted a young man from the foster care system only days before his 18th birthday. Turns out, it was Grant Me Hope’s video that lead them to meet their son Kyron! His parent’s spoke at our Celebrating Hope dinner-auction. We were delighted to have another success story!
Year 5 – We kept plugging away!
- Grant Me Hope was excited to learn it was chosen as one of two recipients of the charity donation from the 2019 Lakeshore Blessing of the Bikes. Blessing of the Bikes is held at the Ottawa County Fairgrounds and is a popular event for riders. We spoke to a huge crowd about our mission!
- Total Christian Television invited Founder Helen Zeerip to one of its popular talk shows to discuss adoption through the foster care system. The show was well-received and resulted in further our social media reach. We were delighted by the results!
- We selected as the charity partner for another very large, very popular event: the Holland Zeeland Community Labor Day Truck Parade! This popular parade is always well-attended. We handed out fliers to our annual Family FunFest to thousands of people!
- Grant Me Hope found itself in need of Development Director. We knew we needed a go-getter with a serious heart for foster children and adoption. We met Lynn Yntema, who has brought to Grant Me Hope three decades of nonprofit executive experience. She is also a mom of five who twice adopted! Lynn hit the ground running, ready to tell people how important adoption from foster care is! She stepped into her role as a worldwide pandemic hit though, she’s slowly meeting with supporters, so we hope you get to meet her soon!
- We capped off five years strong! We hired an excellent team member and we learned about Noah’s adoption!