Sara Disselkamp knew from a very young age that she wanted to make a difference in people’s lives. Placed in foster care immediately following her Texas birth, Sara was adopted by William and Jane Disselkamp, of Millinocket, Maine, just weeks later. Knowing she could have been placed with any other couple in the world, she tears up just thinking about it.
“They’re seriously the best parents I could ever ask for. They’ve given me more than I could ever imagine and I want to take that gift of giving and pass it on to others. They changed my life and I want to help be that change in someone else’s [life],” she says.
Something to Snuggle is Born
It is that unconditional love that spurred Sara to start a program aimed at helping Maine’s foster children, she lovingly calls it Something to Snuggle. “Oftentimes, children are removed from their homes to be placed with a foster family and they don’t get to take any of their personal belongings with them. It hurt my heart to think that there are so many children in our state who are not only without forever families, but are also without something to call their own.” explains Sara, a 22-year old college student majoring in, you guessed it, social work.
Last summer, she decided she would make blankets for children in the foster care system. “Although blankets are such a simple thing, they can serve as special security items during what may be one of the most difficult times in a child’s life. Something to Snuggle seemed like the perfect name for the project.” recalls Sara. And so began the endeavor of spreading out the material on her bedroom floor and getting to work. “Every time one was made, I thought to myself ‘There is one less child who has to go without something to call their own’ and my heart grew fuller and fuller,” she reflects.
It wasn’t long before Sara shared her idea with her mother, Jane, who was more than happy to help and very proud of her daughter. Family friend, Patsy Houston, who is a highly talented quilter, was eager to jump on board as well. “Patsy has done a wonderful job staying on top of the project and I truly can’t thank her enough,” Sara says.
The next logical step was getting the word out and what better way to do that than create a Facebook page?! Sara started the page on Sunday, March 15, 2015. Before she left for work that day, the page had 37 ‘Likes’. As of today, there are 1,162 ‘Likes’ and counting! The community support has been shocking to Sara. “The amount of people who have messaged me, sharing their own personal stories and wanting to help make blankets, is phenomenal. Never in my wildest dreams did I think the project would spread so quickly,” she states.
The Gift of Adoption
The fact that Sara is able to deeply understand the situation these children are in, without ever having shared their experience, speaks volumes to her character and her upbringing. Although she doesn’t have “memories” of what it was like to be in foster care, she knows how important it is for every child to have a permanent home. “I can tell you from my own personal experience, it’s [adoption] been nothing but a blessing. It’s the first thing I thank God for every morning when I wake up and the first thing I thank Him for when I go to bed at night.” she says.
Sara was able to grow up knowing her birth mother because her parents agreed to an open adoption, meaning she would receive letters as well as Christmas and birthday presents over the years. But it wasn’t until she was in the eighth grade that she found a letter from her birth mother, detailing Sara’s background and why she had been placed for adoption. “This was the most influential experience of my life because, in reading that four-page letter, not only did I find out how I came into existence, I knew that God had put me on this earth for a purpose.”
She believes part of that purpose is to help Maine’s children in foster care. “The only way you can’t make a difference is if you choose not to try. One spark is all it takes to start a fire. Something to Snuggle is my proof of that. Although this project has seriously hit the ground running, even the smallest act of kindness makes this world a better place. Everyone deserves SOMETHING to call their own. We’re making that happen,” Sara states, matter-of-factly.
Many Helping Hands are Needed
According to the Adopt US Kids website (www.adoptuskids.org), there are about 2,189 children in Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) custody at this time. Although she is thrilled to be helping so many children in her hometown of Millinocket, Sara knows there is plenty more to be done. The goal is to get one of her blankets into the hands of every child in the system. “I need helping hands making blankets in Portland. I need helping hands making blankets in Fort Kent. I need helping hands making these blankets wherever helping hands are needed. And when all of the children in Maine are helped, I’ll take on the next state!”
Adoptive and Foster Families of Maine (AFFM) and DHHS are just two of the agencies that will be receiving blankets from Something to Snuggle. This past week Sara had the opportunity to make a delivery at AFFM and learned that blankets go very quickly there and they are always in need. Next week she will be making a delivery to DHHS.
Looking Toward the Future
What’s next for this thoughtful young woman? Well, in May of 2016 she will graduate from the University of Maine with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Work. Upon graduation, she plans to get her Master of Social Work degree, though she’s not sure just yet how she will put them to work. “As of now, I’m torn between working as a counselor or working in an adoption agency,” she says. However, before she does that, she’s got one more major thing to do- bring adoption into the national spotlight.
Last summer, Sara traveled to Tennessee to represent Maine in a scholarship pageant, America’s National Teenage Scholarship Organization (ANTSO), Miss Division. ANTSO focuses heavily on how their contestants are of service in their communities. On the heels of that experience, she will be preparing to compete for the title of Miss Maine USA this November! While the platform for Miss USA is Breast and Ovarian Cancer Awareness, Sara’s personal platform is adoption; which she also used in the ANTSO pageant.
“Between school, work, preparing for Miss Maine USA, working on Something to Snuggle, and spending time with my loved ones, my plate is so full right now but that’s what keeps me going! I feel incredibly blessed to be able to be doing everything I love,” Sara says. There are many children today, and in the future, who are equally as blessed that Sara is doing what she loves. Her passion for this project abounds. With her enthusiasm and help from the community at large, there is no doubt that every child in Maine and beyond will see Sara’s dreams come to fruition. The world is a better place for having Sara Disselkamp in it.
How You Can Help
If you would like to help her reach the goal of giving every child in foster care something to snuggle, please send your blankets to:
Something to Snuggle
C/O Sara Disselkamp
4 Somerset Street, Millinocket Maine, 04462
Also, be sure to “Like” her Facebook page so you can keep up to date with Something to Snuggle! http://on.fb.me/1F27Lgd