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Thursday, August 16, 2018

Philippe Family Tosses First Pitch at Reds Game

By Jessie Stringfield-Eden

We all know that summer is a special time. Warm weather, play dates with friends and of course, quality time spent with the family at a Reds game. But very few families have the chance to throw out the first pitch at Great American Ball Park. A few weeks ago, a special family in Fort Thomas got that opportunity.

On July 21, Anna Grace (6), Elena (4) and their adoptive mother Wynne Philippe threw out the first pitch for the Reds v. Pirates game. The opportunity arose as a part of the Champions Program at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

“Anna Grace said she was scared she’d throw it ‘too hard’ so she decided to catch while Elena pitched,” Philippe laughed, “It was Hall of Fame Induction Night so the girls got a fist bump from Pete Rose and a high five from Johnny Bench. This is just such a stark contrast from their lives two and four years ago. They would have never had this opportunity.”

Giving children an opportunity is what inspired Philippe to adopt when she was just 34 years old, and single. Philippe took a leap of faith. “The agency I chose aligned with the church and my faith. There was a home study, lots of vetting, months of essays and lots of hard work,” said Philippe.

“I didn’t know what I was getting don’t know that with a biological child either but there are just so many children out there (American, Haitian, Chinese and many others) that need homes.” Anna Grace and Elena were both adopted from Chinese orphanages at around 26-27 months old. Anna Grace was in an institutionalized environment. Elena was in a foster home.

Needless to say, life in a new country requires some adjusting.

That adjustment has been easier for Anna Grace who has been in the U.S. for 4.5 years. Anna Grace also has a prosthetic leg and attends physical therapy often but Philippe says that doesn’t stop her. “She’s a spitfire. She’s your typical 6-year-old. She is just a ‘larger than life kid’,” said Philippe.

“She’s a little anxious about starting first grade but besides that, she has adjusted well.”

Even at such a young age, Anna Grace understands what it’s like to go without so when the Philippe family went to the Reds game to throw the first pitch, Anna Grace brought along granola bars for anyone who might be hungry. She even brought quarters from her piggy bank for anyone who may need them!

Elena has experienced a little more difficulty adjusting. Elena has a speech disability and regularly attends speech therapy.

“When I met Elena in China, she had a very difficult transition to our family.  It actually was a pretty traumatic time for all of us,” said Philippe. “At one point, we called her foster home Director out of desperation and she said to me, ‘Please don’t give up on her.  She will come around, and she will love you and when she learns to trust you and love you, she will love you fiercely! That’s the kind of girl Elena is’...and she was so right!”

Thanks to the love, patience and support of Philippe, Anna Grace and many others, Elena is now adjusting just fine and dearly loves her Mom and Sister. Anna Grace often refers to her as her ‘BFF’.

From day to day life to extraordinary experiences like throwing out the first pitch at a Reds game, Philippe certainly feels that her life has changed dramatically since adopting the girls. “I am so blessed to have these fantastic little girls. I can’t remember life before them. I wanted to give them an opportunity for life and now they’re just my kids. Elena struggles with talking and said ‘Mama’ the other day. Two years ago, she didn’t have a mom. She would not have had an opportunity for school,” said Philippe. “They’re going to do incredible things. Both have something so special and as a parent, I believe children should be empowered.”

Considering adoption? Philippe is very open about her experience on social media and offers the following advice; “I would encourage anyone who wants to adopt to pray and research. Think about where options lie and when to move and do it.”

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