PHILADELPHIA (WTXF) - A local couple is expanding their already large family by adopting children from overseas, and a program at CHOP is helping them hit the ground running to make sure their children get the medical help they need.
They look like just your average family, playing kickball, riding bikes, shooting hoops, or strategizing chess.
The Shaeffers have 13 children. 11 of them are biological, and the remaining two were adopted from Ethiopia.
For the Shaeffers children are their vocation. These days, with the way little Gracelyn laughs and plays, it's hard to believe this active happy little girl, was once this very sickly little baby, so tiny and weak she could barely move.
"At 13 months she was in 3 month clothes, she couldn't sustain a crawl, she could keep no food down," Lynn Shaeffer explained.
The Shaeffers knew Gracie had medical needs, and started working with the experts from CHOP's international adoption program to prepare.
"So before she ever came home we had a plan of action of what to do with her," Lynn recalled.
Eight different specialists helped Gracie physically, and emotionally. Through eye surgery and therapies she learned to walk, run, and most of all laugh.
With all the love Gracie brought- the Shaeffers knew they still had more to give and decided to adopt an older child just last year; 11-year old Biniyam.
On Bini's first day home he got to meet all his new brothers and sisters. While Bini is used to lots of kids from growing up in an orphanage, he's not used to so much attention. He's had lots of firsts since he's been with the Shaeffers, including his first trip to the ocean, and seeing his first snow!
"They've changed us more than we've changed them," Mark Shaeffer explained.
The Shaeffers deeply believe in giving back, and helping to raise kind kids.
"We didn't think we should just got to work every day come home redo our house, buy new cars and take big vacations, we felt there was more to it than that," Lynn explained.
Changing futures one child at a time, Bini also had heath issues that needed the help of CHOP's international adoption team, including eye surgery and experts on early childhood traumas.
In less than a year, the boy who was smaller than an 8-year old when he arrived- is now a large 12-year-old.
The Shaeffers say they're considering taking in one more child.
For more information about CHOP's International Adoption Program, visit their website: CHOP International Adoption Program.