Lori Roman, Founder and President of The Ann Children’s Fund, is an experienced chief executive with a record of successful leadership in government, non-profit, corporate, and academic sectors.
Her diverse career exemplifies her expertise in management, public policy, strategic planning, public relations, and government affairs. She is the former President of the Salt Institute, an industry trade association. She is also the former Executive Director of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a public policy organization of state legislators, and members of U.S. Congress and British and European Parliaments. Formerly, she served as the Deputy Director/Chief of Staff of the White House Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives at the U.S. Department of Education, where she was responsible for strategic planning and management of resources to achieve the goals outlined in the President's Management Agenda. She also served as the Director of School Choice and Senior Advisor on Family Educational Rights at the U.S. Department of Education.
An accomplished speaker and writer, Lori has been featured in many major radio and television outlets, as well as magazines and newspapers. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration and a Master of Science in Administration.
The Ann Children’s Fund is a labor of love and legacy. When I was a child, my mom, Ann Stillwagon, modeled care and compassion in many ways, but most memorably by taking me with her as she performed Girl Scout Troop leader duties for girls with Down Syndrome. My early memories also include a braille typewriter permanently sitting at the end of our dining room table. In the days before computers, Mom translated children’s books into braille for local children who were visually impaired. Her faith and character led her to a simple life motto—"Do your best to make the world a better place."
As I have gotten older and combined professional life, volunteer work, and small acts of kindness, Mom has been my guiding light, even after her passing. Always in the back of my mind I thought someday there would be an opportunity to do more—something beyond my work in education and public policy, and beyond donations. Something more tangible.
First, the opportunity came to help my son adopt and care for twin boys, rescuing them from life in foster care. Second the opportunity came to help a friend and colleague navigate the adoption of three children with special needs (See Laura’s Ann Story). And most recently, as I tossed and turned one night worrying about my friend losing her health insurance, I realized that it was time to do EVEN MORE. That night, while praying for Laura and her family, I realized there are so many people like Laura who adopt children or wish to adopt children with special needs, but who sometimes need a helping hand. There is a need for people to come along side them and say there is hope and help! You are not alone!
That night the name 'The Ann Children’s Fund' came to me. And as it did, I thought of
Mom’s words when the Girl Scouts with Down Syndrome showered me with attention that I found overwhelming. She said, “Isn’t it wonderful how they love everyone. We could learn a lot from them.”
Yes, Mom. We could. And with The Ann Children’s Fund we are going to do our best to show love to families and children who have special needs. Your love and your legacy live on.
Kerri Toloczko is Vice President of The Ann Children's Fund, and has been a public policy analyst and expert in issue advocacy and stakeholder management in the free market think tank community for over two decades.
She currently serves as a senior fellow with two non-profit think tanks, the Institute for Liberty and Frontiers of Freedom, and also is a consultant to other public policy organizations and private clients in the U.S. and overseas.
Kerri’s editorials have appeared in publications including Forbes, Investors Business Daily, The New York Observer, The Washington Times, Townhall, The Daily Caller and many prominent state newspapers. She has been a guest on Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher, Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, the BBC and local news stations across the country. She is a regular commentator on talk radio nationwide on a variety of issues including national defense, health care, fiscal policy and family and culture.
I was adopted as an infant by my Anne in 1957. My first weeks were in foster care before going home with my parents, Anne and Herb. Raised knowing there was something special about being adopted, I was a "two cake kid" as we celebrated my birth date and my adoption date.
Always curious about my birth mother, and with Mom’s blessing, I met birth mom Dolly, "stepdad" Dom, and four half-siblings in 1997 and have been part of their loving family ever since. A "best moment" was when Anne and Dolly met for the first time at my 2008 wedding.
From Dolly, I learned giving up a child for adoption is a selfless act, truly "the greatest gift." While still an infant in foster care, I needed medication and Dolly was told to provide it. This had to be painful for her as she hadn’t even seen me, but she purchased it and made sure it was received by my foster mother. I think of this story as we provide through The Ann Children's Fund.
From Mom, I learned the bounty of that gift and the unique bond between parents and an adopted child. The love of a birth mom starts from her child’s birth and the love of an adopted mom begins at first sight. Through The Ann Children's Fund, we honor both.
My husband Mike and I are involved in supporting Jill’s House, a non-profit respite center near our home that provides overnight stays for children with severe intellectual and physical disabilities. I also participate in a foster and adoption ministry at church, and we love notes and updates from our own "adopted" children we sponsor through Compassion International and Least of These Haiti.
I am Mom to daughter Caitlin who works in hospitality industry sales and son Connor, a Liberty University graduate and U.S. Army officer.
Laura Elliott is Resource Director at The Ann Children's Fund. Laura has 20 years of experience working with non-profits in a variety of roles, including membership services, event planning, fundraising, research, project coordination, and administration.
Most of her work has been with educational and children’s non-profits, such as the United Negro College Fund, the Washington Scholarship Fund, and the National Council For Adoption, which has allowed her the privilege to work in two fields she’s extremely passionate about – adoption and education.
I’m a single mom who has adopted three children with special needs. My sons, Julian and Liam, have bleeding disorders and my daughter Anne has a repaired cleft lip and palate and hearing loss. She’s named after my mother who was one of the strongest, most incredible women I’ve ever known. If my daughter grows up to be half the woman she was, I will be delighted. Unfortunately, my mother passed away before I brought my children home, although she did know I planned to adopt internationally and she was looking forward to meeting them.
When I first began the adoption process, I wasn’t considering special needs at all. I just wanted to find my kids and bring them home. I ended up adopting my oldest son from Bulgaria. I was planning to get on the wait list for a child when they sent me a paragraph about a five-year old being added to the special needs list who had Hemophilia. I called my sister (a doctor) and she said "no problem – go get him!" and we did. It turned out to be more than I expected (his medical records had his condition listed as much less severe) and I’m very grateful I didn’t know in advance what to expect. We were hospitalized for several days within a couple of weeks of returning home and again for 8 days after we’d been home six weeks. We’ve often been hospitalized multiple times per year since then, although we’ve now gone nearly a year without being admitted.
I’ve learned a tremendous amount since then – about adoption, about Hemophilia, about Julian himself, about the importance of community. During these years, so many people gave me hope and comfort – non-profits, hospitals, doctors, online communities, churches, friends, family, etc. And it became clear to me how important it was for us to have this network. It can be so incredibly isolating to parent a child with a rare or significant need. Finding someone who understands what you mean when you say "his bloodwork came back X" meant the world to me, as did finding someone who could help me navigate insurance questions, and others who could help me cover the cost of dental work for a kid from a non-fluoride country, etc. So, when Lori called me and told me she wanted to build The Ann Children’s Fund to connect people and resources and fill in any gaps we might see, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to provide the kind of hope and help which have seen me through these years.
In fact, these communities are the reason why I was able to go back and adopt Liam (who has Von Willebrand Disease) and my daughter Anne. I knew that these communities would be there for me and support me just as surely as they had with my first child. And they did. When Liam turned out to have an entirely different bleeding disorder than we expected, and my daughter turned out to have unexpected hearing loss, they came alongside me and helped me.
Now our family is complete, a fact we celebrate three times a year – the anniversary of each day that I brought one of them home and we got to be a family forever. And I’m thrilled to be able to help others find the resources they need to get through whatever they might be facing today or fearing tomorrow, as so many others have done for me along the way.
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