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The Sullivans and grandparents Patrick and Peggy Sullivan and Marilyn Rama

Featured Article

One Globally Big Happy Family

Wayne's Worldwide Tale Of Eight Remarkable People

Endure a grueling two-year process to adopt a child who will need multiple surgeries to have a shot at a normal life? No big deal. Spend another two years going through another adoption process for another in Haiti — and survive a gauntlet of bureaucratic hurdles that would’ve made Job say “never mind” as the world’s borders were locking down due to a pandemic? C’est la vie. In the Sullivan world, it’s what “anyone” would have done.

But that’s not OUR world. We’re a society of camera-first social posters who ask “when is something going to be done…?” The Sullivans are the ones who simply do.

“Mary Jo and I have known each other since we could walk,” Brian explains. “We started dating once we were in our twenties. We’ve always said that no matter what might happen in our future, we always wanted to adopt. So even before we were married and had our own kids, adoption has always been something we’ve felt very strongly about.” 

The Sullivans Go Global

So while their future family had already become full with Gavin, Adanya, Julia, and Dolan, the Sullivans made good on their promise to adopt when they found their next Sullivan in China. Finn was born with spina bifida and a foot deformity that would require multiple surgeries. But with his sunny disposition and like the rest of his family, a positive, can-do attitude, nothing stops him. He’s just a normal 9-year-old. A pure Sullivan.

Like her brother, Grace was born under the shadow of a personal health crisis, born with a heart condition. Her adoption was a tactical nightmare. A pandemic delay in her being brought home from her rural orphanage in Haiti could’ve been disastrous for her long-term survival if the worst happened. But miracle after miracle intervened, getting her on the very last flight out before the borders closed. The grace of “Gracie’s Army” carried her through and home to New Jersey. Finally, the Sullivans were complete.

The House was Not Yet a Home

Now that home was full of Sullivans. But the house wasn’t quite right. So they started over. This would be yet another yearlong process. This time, it would mean knocking down their house and rebuilding from the ground up. But even this didn't go according to plan. Partway through construction, a hurricane wiped out their progress and they had to start again. Eight humans and two dogs shared a small townhouse while a new homestead worthy of such a crew was constructed. Twice.

“We toughed it out,” Mary Jo admits with relief. “It was like living in a dorm for the kids. They’re so excited to be home.” But the dogs are even more excited. “Poor Rory (one of their two English Retrievers) was so stressed. She started losing hair in clumps. It was NOT easy for her. We even had to resort to using CBD oil on her to help calm her down.”

Family, Done Right

Despite their long absence, the Packanack neighborhood wasn’t without a Sullivan presence. Brian’s parents bought the house on the same street a few years ago, Mary Jo’s brother and his family live on the next block, and Brian’s sister’s family is two streets away. Along with allied neighbors, the process was well monitored. 

Family is everything for them. While the method that it took to establish their immediate family was anything but blueprint, how they are as a family could hardly be more textbook. 

Their family could be a study in resilience. Regardless of the situation, they always have an organic calm about them, guided by a strong moral compass. Aside from Gavin’s good natured trash-talking during family basketball games, you’ll never hear anything boastful from a Sullivan. 

They’d never admit it, but the Sullivans — every last one of them — are role models. They’re genuinely the most Salt of the Earth people you’ll ever meet. As for Finn and Gracie, they’re both happy, thriving, and knitted inexorably into the fabric of the family.

If the Sullivan family was a club membership, the waiting list would be a mile long. And this isn’t just hyperbole.  A neighbor once said about them “I am in awe of their commitment to children and making lives better. The love that they give back to the world is genuine. A child adopted into the Sullivan family has won the lottery.”

Clearly, Brian and Mary Jo are strong believers in adoption and are happy to talk with anyone about taking their own adoption journey. Here’s why it’s such an important part of their DNA, in their own words: “Adoption reminds us that all life is precious! None of us come into this world perfect, all of our journeys are different and some of us have bigger hurdles and obstacles to overcome than others. But no matter what your hurdles or obstacles may be, every child deserves a family, every child deserves to know what it feels like to be unconditionally loved. The gifts that the adoption journey has provided our entire family has blessed us all in more ways than we can count.”

  • Mary Jo and Brian
  • Brian and Gavin
  • The Sullivans and grandparents Patrick and Peggy Sullivan and Marilyn Rama
  • Top Row: Dolan, Adanya, Julia. Bottom Row: Grace, Jordan, Finn, Rory
  • Jordan and Rory in quieter days
  • Brian, Dolan, Mary Jo, Julia, Grace, Santa Claus, Gavin, Adanya, Finn