The Puzzle Fundraiser: Pieces of An Adoption Story

By Kiersten Lyons /

When I was in third grade, I wanted to be an ice cream cone for Halloween. My mom happily supported me by buying me two poster boards to make said costume. You see, my mom didn’t believe in buying store-bought costumes (or much of store-bought anything) to encourage creativity, and also because I’m one of five kids, so: budgeting. I cut out two large triangles to make a sandwich board cone and then painted my face pink for strawberry ice cream. I even attached scraps of poster board colored red for a cherry on top of my head. My mom told me I looked darling, but everyone thought I was pizza. I truly wish I had a picture right now, but just imagine an awkward little girl with a bowl cut, dressed like pizza ice cream and… you get the idea.

Fast forward a few years, (remember, few is three to a thousand) and I am now a Mom to two amazing girls. Our first was born five and half years ago and nine months later, her big sister Ashley (then 18) moved in with us. Ashley’s 23 now and lives on her own, but she will forever be Our Sweet Girl and Ellison’s Big Sister.


Ellison has been waiting patiently (well, as patiently as a kindergartener can) to be a big sister herself, even naming her future brother or sister Lemon Squeeze Corduroy Grape. Yes, you read that right… We don’t know Lemon Squeeze yet, but we can’t wait to meet him or her and his or her birth family. We are in the process of adoption and almost every day hear from our youngest “When is my baby brother or sister going to get here?” And we hold her little face, look into her eyes and very honestly say that we don’t know.

And we don’t.

We have completed many of the steps in the adoption process; the background checks, interviews, and mounds of paperwork that go into a “homestudy”. And finally, we are proud to announce we are Home Study approved! We are now in the next phase, one that we’ve been in since even before we announced our plans to adopt a child to family and friends: The fundraising phase.


For hopeful adoptive families, the cost varies depending on the type of plan (foster care, domestic and international.) The price can be anywhere from a few thousand to more than 50 grand. While 30% of couples consider adopting, 79 percent of those couples are deterred because of the cost. In fact, only a mere 2 percent actually adopt.

A quick Google search can lead to numerous ways to fundraise for an adoption – everything from garage sales to raffles – even Bowl-A-Thons. But one, in particular, stuck out to us so brightly – a Puzzle Fundraiser. This is a fundraiser where individuals “sponsor” a piece of the puzzle by making a donation and their name is written on the back of that piece. Once all the pieces are sponsored, we’ll display the finished puzzle in a dual-sided frame, so Lemon Squeeze can see all the people that brought him or her to our family.


I immediately began to search for a puzzle, something that spoke to our family we have now. But I also wanted it to represent the triad we are entering into (child, birth family, and adoptive family). We are pursuing an open adoption plan and with that, we hope to form a relationship with the birth family. It isn’t just Lemon Squeeze Corduroy Grape we are praying for – it is his or her entire family.

I thought back to my ice cream pizza costume and all the moments in my childhood (and adulthood) where I had created. I painted cake toppers for our wedding, hand sewed felt for our youngest’s Halloween costumes (I’ve moved on from poster board thankyouverymuch) and even painted our family for a Christmas card when we didn’t have any recent photos together. And that’s when it hit me – I could paint the picture for our puzzle!

I researched companies that can make photos into puzzles and I loved Pinhole Press’s personalized photo puzzle because of the quality and price. I sketched ideas for our painting: a palm tree signifying our family’s beginning on the west coast and lady liberty to signify our home now, with our little family in between, all under little bunting flags to celebrate what we’re holding: A poster board (ok I guess I will never truly move on from poster board) that illustrates our newest addition. We took some photos of the print, uploaded it onto Pinhole Press’s site, and within days our little family’s story was in front of us. All 252 pieces of it.


As we sat on the floor painstakingly putting it together, (seriously the background blue brush strokes I painted all looked the same!) I realized that our process to adopting Lemon Squeeze is so much like this puzzle; the longing for a child, the applications, interviews, trainings, the saving and raising money and the waiting to be matched all make up our pieces of the triad. The birth mother will have her own pieces and of course our child, theirs too. Slowly the picture will appear, each piece finding their place because of those who have supported us, not a perfect picture, but perfectly handmade.


About the Author: Kiersten is a writer, actor, creator and forever late bloomer living in Brooklyn, NY. She spent most of her formative years believing she’d marry teen heartthrob JTT, but is extremely grateful to have been wrong about that match; instead marrying her best friend Bradley (even if she’s still trying to convince him to love Disney World). You can follow along with their family’s adoption process and see her custom illustrations over @salutationslittlesis.