A boy from Liberia turns 5 today with much more than a birthday to celebrate.
Deanna and Wesley Gordon of Kidder, Montana, are in the process of adopting the boy, whom they've named Peter and who has lived with them since March.
The organization Global Orphan Outreach found Peter in an orphanage suffering from malnutrition, malaria and hepatitis A, in addition to weighing just 24 pounds and being deaf. He was brought to the United States last year on a medical visa that will expire in August.
The Gordons have been racing against time to raise funds to adopt Peter before he's forced to return to Liberia and to orphanage living conditions that would threaten his still-fragile health.
Since the News-Press last covered their story in April, the Gordons have made significant strides -- collecting $14,000 of the $16,000 they need to cover the costs of the adoption and of traveling to Liberia to complete it.
Although they must still come up with the remaining $2,000 before Peter's visa expires next month, they feel much closer now to making Peter officially a part of their family, which also includes six biological children.
"We feel pretty confident things are on the right path," Mrs. Gordon said. "We've been amazed at how much we've been able to accomplish and want people to know how grateful we are for the support they've shown us."
She adds that while a portion of the $14,000 came in through fundraising events, she was surprised to see a majority come from donations, many of them from strangers. She is still accepting donations through her blog, penniesforpeter.blogspot.com.
As for future fundraising efforts, the Gordons are looking into the possibility of partnering with Global Orphan Outreach's Concert of Hope series, which donates proceeds from performances by acclaimed pianist Eric Genuis to causes such as theirs.
At the same time, they're doing all they can to prepare to fly to Liberia as soon as funds are available for it, while also pursuing a renewal of Peter's medical visa in case they don't raise the money in time.
But even with all that remains to be done, today is much more about celebration than stress. Peter is 5, happy, growing and learning. And -- thanks to all the help the Gordons have received -- he's also almost theirs.