The family of local veteran Douglas Harris has officially grown by two.
Harris made Hampshire County his home after sustaining combat injuries during his time in Afghanistan, and then in 2015, Homes for Our Troops coordinated the process of building him a mortgage-free home that was designed specifically to accommodate those injuries.
Harris and his wife Autumn have been foster parents for a short time, and on Sept. 16, the adoption of 8-year-old Kaydence and 4-year-old Freedom was finalized, making the two children an official part of the Harris family.
“We want [our foster kids] to feel like they are family,” Harris says. “That wherever they go, there was at one time people who truly loved and cared for them, people they can reach out to in the future.”
Harris says that he and Autumn decided that the empty rooms in their house should be used to help someone.
“My wife and I have always strived to give back where we can,” Harris explains. “I was spared from my injury in Afghanistan, and I felt that the best thing that I could do, what God wanted me to do, was give back.”
Harris and Autumn have not been fostering for a very long time, but they’ve made an impact in the lives of a dozen children so far.
“We have had 12 children in our home, and I can honestly say we loved each of them like our own,” Autumn says. “When they leave, they take a piece of our hearts with them.”
When Kaydence and Freedom first came to stay with the Harris family, they were aged six and two. “They have grown so much, and I’m so happy to finally share our last name with them,” Autumn says. “We loved them from day one, and it’s amazing how the love grows more every day.”
Harris says that the people involved in the nonprofit have been heavily involved in the lives of his children, and that they are like “aunts and uncles” to them.
“Our kids get to grow up around great role models,” Harris says, “Veterans come through our doors constantly, and our kids get to interact with them, and through the nonprofit get to experience why it is important to give back and care for everyone.”
Kaydence and Freedom, according to their new dad, are “extremely smart.”
“Freedom certainly lives up to his name. He’s a wild child who loves being outdoors and doing typical boy stuff with his current foster brother,” Harris describes. “He’s my little shadow.”
Kaydence, a third grader at John J. Cornwell, is involved with the Girl Scouts, dance and loves to be around family.
“Everyone treats our children like family,” concludes Harris. “Our community and friends have been amazingly supportive.”