Michael's Memorial and Scholarship

This is the hardest thing I have ever had to write and I have been a writer since childhood. My heart bleeds as I do what has to be done, raise money for a funeral and memorial for a child who changed so many people’s lives including my own. His name was Michael VanWoert and he departed this world from a single occupant car accident at the age of only 19. He was killed on impact. There was no time for suffering, instantly he was gone.

Michael started life as an abused child who wound up in the foster care system at the age of 9 and languished there for years. He was a like so many children in care, wonderful and kind but as the years passed, he learned to hide his true self to survive.

Finally he found a loving home…for all of 3 and a half years. My lifetime friend Rachel Dueker and her spouse Tyson VanWoert found Mike on the Heart Gallery page of the A Family for Every Child adoption agency, which is affiliated with the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Foundation. He was 15 at the time. The Heart Gallery presents profiles of children eligible for adoption. So far, they have profiled about 500 kids and helped find homes for over half of them.

Sadly, the chances of being adopted for children 10 years old or above drops by 50%.

Michael, despite being told by a state hospital psychiatrist that he was unadoptable and a family would have to be crazy to adopt him, held on to a fragile shred of hope that there was someone somewhere who would love him. His wish came true when not only did the adoptive parents find him, they fought every odd and beurocratic red tape to get and keep him. They were warriors for this child. Failure was not an option.

I was so happy for them when the protracted process of interstate adoption and biological parental right termination in court was completed. We celebrated with Mike by starting a documentary about foster care reform where he and other voices could be heard. Peace and love would reign Michael’s world. We never imagined that peace wouldn’t be here with us.

Michael is and always will be an example that love, light and hope are real and should be held as a precious priority; encouraged in every way. A symbol and testimony to every lost child that they are not alone. If you ever met him, you know the words that describe him are sunshine, light, bounce and joy. Kids that he knew deeply and kids that have either been to camp with him or he knew from volunteering at the haunted house with him have reached out to his parents. The stories all have the same theme, no matter how long or short the encounter, it stayed with them. Mike made others feel like they mattered and showed care. Mike loved people. As a 19-year-old finding his way in the world, he still swung by grandma’s weekly or visited family friends. Most importantly in his happiness with new family and friends, Mike could belly laugh, something most adults cannot truly do, a deep laugh from the gut, bubbling joy until tears rolled down his cheeks. Now, help is needed to properly memorialize him in service and history.

This plea is twofold. His parents have to cover funeral expenses of $3000. Extended family members are assisting as much as they are able but they still need help. There are additional services costs, salvage yard costs and a headstone where Mike’s ashes will be laid with family. All funds raised will go towards taking the burden off of this devastated family. Any money raised above memorial costs will go to a scholarship at A Family For Every Child so Mike’s legacy will live on to help other children like him find their forever homes. The proper vetting and home study of potential parents is expensive, so much so many people just can’t afford it. People who would make excellent parents should not be deterred nor should children linger in an antiquated, hellish existence simply because of something as transient as money. Rachel and Ty were able to start the process of adopting because of a scholarship. That is how the stars aligned for them to have their child. After he is laid to rest, any funds remaining they wish to give to others. Even in their deep pain, they know their life is better because of their love, their light, their son.

Please help his family honor him and what his wishes would have been.

Organizer and beneficiary

Amy Rachelle Meador 
Orlando, FL
Rayray OR 

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