Angel. The word was said many times at the “Care to Celebrate Adoption Medicine Clinic University of Minnesota Gala” the evening of September 28, 2018. It echoed off the walls as guests mingled, the mothers and fathers of adoptive children using it to describe the physicians who cared for their kids at the UMN Adoption Medicine Clinic (AMC) through the years. The word passed the lips of an emotional colleague, who embraced the event’s host late in the evening, calling the clinic’s director an “earth angel"; a sentiment felt by many in the room. And finally, the word angel was used by U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar as she addressed the crowd of over a hundred via video from Washington, describing the researchers and care-givers at the AMC.

The unique event began three years ago, as an effort to keep the AMC doors open. Three years later the clinic is thriving, and now the funds are needed for growth.

The AMC's mission is to be a resource and advocate for children who are in foster care, adopted and those remaining in institutional care around the world. The Care to Celebrate Gala raises money to support that mission.

A big part of the clinic success is owed to AMC’s director, Judith Eckerle, MD, Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics, University of Minnesota Medical School. Eckerle was recently nominated by Senator Klobuchar as a 2018 Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI) Angels in Adoption Honoree.

Hundreds came to the event at The Lynhall in Minneapolis to provide crucial funding for research, education, advocacy, and care at the AMC. Those in attendance included University of Minnesota Health and Medical School physicians and researchers such as Joe Neglia, MD, Physician-in-Chief at University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital, members of the adoptive community, many parents whose children were patients at one time or another at AMC, and community partners and supporters.

Executive Vice President and Provost Karen Hanson, the chief academic officer of the University of Minnesota, was also in attendance and spoke during a short program.

“Dr. Eckerle’s work of bringing together comprehensive programming is becoming a reality,” Provost Hanson said.

During the program, Eckerle also addressed the crowd. She mentioned a transformative partnership grant the clinic is embarking on with the Minnesota Department of Human Services for the next four years which could double the clinic’s capacity. She also thanked everyone for their support, including those who were not in attendance, sharing a story of when she recently went to University of Minnesota Medical School Dean Jakub Tolar for funding.

“He looked at me and said ‘I believe in you. This is exactly what we should be doing at the Medical School.” Eckerle shared, and then said again how grateful she is for the  Medical School's, and Dr. Neglia’s, support.

“Getting them into healthy families is what’s going to help these kids,” said Eckerle, emotion creeping into her voice, a testament to her dedication and devotion. “We want to repair their bodies, repair their minds and repair the fear that they were ever unwanted.”

The room was silent as Eckerle's words reached each and every person in the room.

“I didn’t get here on my own,” Eckerle continued, “and I certainly can’t move the AMC into the future on my own. Thank you so much for supporting us.”