Foster Hope hosts Shopping for Siblings

by Claudia Loucks correspondent
Claudia Loucks

ATKINSON – Ryan and Lola Rahn know the joy of giving and they share that joy with children in foster care.

For many years the Rahn couple has hosted a “Shopping for Siblings” for children in foster care and licensed with any agency in the Quad City area.

In previous years, children were invited to Foster Hope in Atkinson and with the help of elves, were allowed to choose and wrap gifts for their siblings, play in a bounce house, take part in games and decorate cookies. But this year had to be different in keeping with mandates in place as a result of COVID-19.

Children, with the help of elves, did go to Foster Hope to choose gifts for their siblings, and if time allowed, the youngsters were able to wrap the gifts, and if not, gift bags were provided for the children to take their gifts in.

Lola Rahn added, “Even though we couldn’t have fun activities that we have had in other years, we did give each child a decorated cookie to take with them.”

The Rahn couple asked foster parents to sign up for a 15-minute time slot for their foster children to shop for their siblings and only six children were allowed in the site at one time in order to maintain social distancing.

Also, in previous years Rahn placed boxes at different area locations and collected toys and games in advance for the “shopping” event.

She was not able to drop boxes off this year because of the pandemic, but people still responded, and Rahn said, “I cannot believe how supportive people have been this year in donating for our shopping event,” she said. “We received an abundance of toys, and cash donations and we had a Secret Santa step forward that purchased five bikes and four scooters.”

“We have been extremely blessed by the generosity from individuals, churches and local businesses,” she said. ,

Megan Kelley of Geneseo took her two foster daughters to the “Shopping for Siblings” event in Atkinson and the children were among the 114 youngsters who were able to choose special Christmas gifts for their siblings.

Megan and her husband, Kevin Kelley, parents to a son, four-year-old Lincoln, became licensed foster parents in September of 2019 and accepted their first placement in February of this year.

When asked about the couple’s decision to become foster parents, Megan Kelley said, “We felt called from God to step out of our comfort zone and help our community.”

She also appreciated being able to take her foster daughters to “something fun,” and she said, “The event went very smoothly and the care from the volunteers was so appreciated. The holidays are hard for foster families with lots of emotions, so getting to do joyful things is a blessing.”

Even though this is the first year the Kelley couple has been foster parents, Foster Hope is not new to them and Kevin Kelley, manager of Rock Valley Physical Therapy in Geneseo, has collected toys for the annual “Shopping for Siblings” in previous years at the Geneseo clinic. This year, three other Quad-City Rock Valley clinics teamed up to collect toys for Shopping for Siblings.

Megan Kelley said, “Lola (Rahn) has been amazing. She met us at Foster Hope immediately after our placement, we got the girls on a Thursday night and met her Saturday at Foster Hope and she loaded us up with clothes, seats, toys and books and everything we might need.”

Kelley explained, “When you are foster parents, you have no idea of gender or age or anything so you are not prepared. Foster Hope has been wonderful.”

Foster care is not new to the Rahn couple as they became licensed foster parents in 1991.

“Over the course of 28 years, we have opened our hearts and home to over 70 children,” she said. “Some children were with us for only a night or two, while others were part of our family for more than a year.”

The family has had emergency, traditional, respite and reunification placements.

“When our children were very young we would take them to the Dollar Tree to shop for gifts for each other and then go out to dinner,” she said. “As soon as we came home, they would run up to their rooms and start wrapping gifts, all by themselves, and we were sure to have lots of scotch tape on hand.”

“They were so excited and proud of the gifts they had chosen and wrapped themselves that they wanted to open them first on Christmas morning,” she said.

“It is our hope to give children in foster care this same sense of pride, joy and excitement this holiday season by hosting this event,” Rahn said.

“Our greatest joy from becoming foster parents is that we were blessed by the adoptions of two, of our five, precious children,” Rahn said. “We have been especially proud of our children for their willingness to share their home, belongings, parents’ time, love and energy with every child who has entered our home. If you ask them, they will tell you the sacrifices they may have made by being a foster family were minimal compared to the rewards. I know this because I have asked them.”

In December of 2016, the Rahn couple opened space for Foster Hope at 107 South State St. in Atkinson, in the former Atkinson Grade School building.

Rahn also has a supply of diapers, toddler clothing and other items that might be needed by foster parents.

Foster parents may learn more about Foster Hope on face book at Henry County Foster / Adoptive Parents. Due to confidentiality, the site is a private face book group only for foster parents. More information about Foster Hope is available from Rahn at rahnlola@gmail.com.

Rahn said. “Our mission is to recruit, educate, and support foster families in Henry County and surrounding areas.”

“Where there is help, there is hope and where there is hope there is a future” is the motto Lola Rahn has chosen for Foster Hope.

The non-profit organization is focused on supporting foster parents and helping to meet the needs of children in foster care.

Lola Rahn, who with her husband, Ryan Rahn, founded Foster Hope in Atkinson where they host a “Shopping for Siblings” Christmas event each year. In the photo Rahn helps a child choose a Christmas gift for a sibling at the 2020 event held Saturday, Dec. 12.
Stephanie Bos, one of the elves at the “Shopping for Siblings” event, helps a child wrap a gift for her sibling.