The couple opened their hearts and their home to Nate – who’s been through a lot during his short life. “Every night I go to sleep thinking, ‘I’m very lucky.’” 🥰
Very often it is the people who have endured immense hardship that can teach us the most important lessons.Sometimes that lesson is simply to persevere and be happy no matter what problems life throws at you. 10-year-old Nate is the perfect example of this.
Due to a blood infection caused by sickle cell anemia, Nate’s legs were amputated below the knee, as were his right arm and two-and-a-half fingers on his right hand. Nate has been through far more in his ten years than any child should ever have to go through. One day, Nate was transferred to Jenna Riccio’s class. Some of our society’s best people are teachers.
This story would be a lot different if Nate had never been transferred mid-year to Jenna Riccio’s elementary school reading class at Walsh Elementary School in Waterbury, Connecticut. Jenna reflected on her early impressions of Nate to Good Morning America.“He was really shy. Sometimes he would just cry out of nowhere. I think it was a lot for him — transferring in mid-year, being the only kid in our classroom in a wheelchair. It took a long time for him to warm up and to open up to everyone,” Jenna said.
In 2019, Nate had to go back to the hospital for emergency surgery to prevent an infection in his arm. That’s when Jenna learned more about his home life. Turns out, Nate had been removed from his biological family’s home. Jenna learned from the Connecticut State Department of Children and Families that Nate had been removed from his biological family’s home after his doctors became concerned about him missing appointments. Knowing that Nate would not have a family with him in the hospital, Jenna decided to visit him there.
“He was there by himself with no family,” she recalled to PEOPLE. “I wanted to cheer him up and have someone he knew there with him.” Jenna then learned that Nate was being transferred to foster care which was more than an hour away from the school he was attending. “It wasn’t the ideal situation for him,” Jenna said. “I worried about what was going to happen to him.”
Jenna went to the hospital wanting to cheer Nate up but she left wanting to provide a home for him. “I asked if I could go visit him in the hospital just thinking, he doesn’t have his mom. He doesn’t have his brother with him … And that’s when I started thinking, ‘You know what, I can be his foster mom, like I can be there for him,’” she told GMA.
Jenna decided she could be Nate’s foster mom. The kind-hearted elementary school teacher realized she had room to take Nate in. She could be his foster mom. So, she started the process to make that a reality. She spoke with her boyfriend, Tim (who was also the boy’s art teacher), and they agreed they would do it together.“I wanted to be a part of it,” Tim told PEOPLE.
In less than two weeks, Jenna and Tim went through a rigorous screening process to ensure they could provide a suitable home for Nate. By the time Nate was ready to be released from the hospital, the couple was already approved to be his foster parents. Nate went to live with Jenna and Tim.
Nate helped solidify a new family. Tim and Jenna became engaged and would later get married with Nate serving as the ring bearer. The couple would then welcome the birth of their daughter, Julien. The family says that Julien loves her big brother Nate and lights up whenever she hears his voice.
Nate’s older biological brother, Giovhany Mondestin, is also close with the family. Nate was officially adopted. Tim and Jenna ended up officially adopting Nate on Nov. 18, 2022, National Adoption Day. Nate spoke about his experiences at Waterbury juvenile court that day. “This day is amazing!” He said.
Now in the fifth grade, Nate is said to be thriving with his new family. He walks with the use of prosthetic legs and while he will need ongoing care to support his condition, Nate considers himself lucky to have all that he does. “Every night I go to sleep thinking, ‘I’m very lucky,’ ” he says. Learn more about Nate’s perseverance and Tim and Jenna’s dedication in the video below!
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