To Brian and Nicole Hammond, what’s happened in their lives is indicative of one thing: The Lord works in mysterious ways.
“Becoming foster and then adoptive parents isn’t something we set out to do,” Nicole Hammond, 34, said as she squeezed the hand of husband Brian.
As Brian, 37, looks at his six children sitting on the couch in their northwest Las Vegas rental home, he grins, his pride evident. “It wasn’t our mission in life. … It’s been a big surprise.”
The couple first met over the internet. That first communication 11 years ago led to a seven-hour telephone conversation and then an in-person meeting for three hours outside a 7-Eleven.
Pray hard. Love hard. Work hard. Study hard. Over the phone and in person — she was a student at UNLV and he was a math tutor, work he still does today — they quickly realized they were in sync on how they believed life should be lived.
So even before they were married in Las Vegas in 2007 they just knew they would be Team Hammond, a couple who could handle whatever came their way.
Yet never had they even considered becoming the parents of six children born to drug-addicted mothers — children with special needs ranging from high anxiety to arrested development.
And as much as they believed that with God’s help Team Hammond could deal with life’s ups and downs, they admit they wondered three years ago if they’d be strong enough to deal with a child being diagnosed with a rare leukemia.
That they’ve been strong enough, that they were the right people to be mom and dad to Charles and Taylor, both 9; Jordanne, 8; Meganne, 6; Blake, 4; and Nathan, 3; is apparent when you visit their home.
When Mom and Dad laugh and talk about how they fell in love — somehow they’re both mellow and energetic — the children join in the laughter. Taylor’s giggle is heard, even though he’s very thin from his cancer battle. He wears a mask to keep out germs as a result of his July bone marrow transplant.
“Please”and “thank you” are part of the children’s conversation. Everyone knows the words to a before-dinner prayer.
“When you give kids what they need — love — they flourish,” said Nicole, who home schools the kids with her husband.
It was a few months after their marriage when Nicole, working as an office assistant at the Clark County Department of Family Services to earn tuition money, was asked by colleagues to see a baby everybody was oohing and ahing about.
Her maternal instinct shifted into high gear when she saw the abandoned child. For the first time she thought of becoming a foster parent. She texted a message to her husband along with a picture of her with Charles, who was born HIV-positive.
“Sign us up,” Brian texted back.
They took classes to become foster parents. Not long after their training was over, they began caring for Charles, whose anti-viral treatments rid him at age two of the virus that leads to AIDS.
On the very day in 2008 when they adopted Charles, social workers asked the Hammonds if they’d also foster parent a 6-month-old girl.
“It was overwhelming at first,” said Nicole, now a full-time mom. “But we realized, ‘If we don’t do it, who will?’”
The four other children they’d foster parent and adopt came the same way. Social workers saw how adept they were at parenting and asked for help. To help their children, the Hammonds must take frequent trips to doctors and therapists.
“They have something special as a couple,” said Melissa Cipriano, executive director of Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation of Nevada. “God brought them and the children together.”
For the past three years, Candlighters has helped the Hammonds with rent and utilities as well as travel, lodging and food costs when they travel to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, where Taylor must be treated. The Lord Help Taylor Heal Facebook page details his struggle.
“Even though Medicaid covers the kids’ medical costs, we couldn’t have made it when things got really tight — Taylor is hospitalized a lot — without Candlighters and the people who’ve helped us through gofundme.com/teamhammond,” Nicole said. “There are a lot of people in Las Vegas with big hearts.”
And Nicole and Brian Hammond are two of them.
Paul Harasim’s column runs Sunday, Tuesday and Friday in the Nevada section and Monday in the Health section. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-5273. Follow @paulharasim on Twitter.