The name of the game was fun last Friday evening at Lions Club Park. More than 20 children slapped pies in the faces of Missouri S&T fraternity members and other youngsters had their faces painted by sorority members. That was just the start. It was the annual Community Partnership's Linking Hearts adoption event.

The name of the game was fun last Friday evening at Lions Club Park. More than 20 children slapped pies in the faces of Missouri S&T fraternity members and other youngsters had their faces painted by sorority members. That was just the start. It was the annual Community Partnership's Linking Hearts adoption event.

For more than 20 years, adoptable children have been teamed with “buddies” from Missouri S&T's Greek community to roam around one of the park's pavilions to enjoy carnival games and activities, as well as a cookout.  At the same time, potential adoptive parents mill around and a have  a chance to meet and greet the kids and have fun as well.

This was Missouri S&T student Seth Fluegel’s second time volunteering for the event. The member of Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity was not sure who has more fun at this event- the fraternities and sororities or the kids.

“This is a great time,” shared a soaked Fluegel in between attacks at an ongoing water-balloon fight.
“We want to show these kids a good time. If we're having fun, it allows them to join us in the festivities.”

Katie Gesell, a member of Chi Omega sorority, added that each (Greek) house is trying to outdo each other in providing the best booth or activity.
“This is such a worthwhile cause,” she added.

According to Carolyn Gerber, manager of the 25th Judicial Circuit which includes Phelps, Pulaski, Texas and Maries counties, 30 families, interested in adoption,  attended the event. Among them were Patrick and Becky Carlson, of St. Charles. The couple, who have two children, made the 100-mile trek to Rolla based on the enthusiasm of the couple's social worker.

“She wouldn't stop talking about it,” noted Becky. “We also know there is a lot of  need out there for kids to find a home. We're here to try and help.”

The couple admitted that they were a little nervous as they weren't sure what to expect, but at the same time, eager to see if there was a child there who might make a good match for their family.

Gerber said that there really isn't a “typical” adoptive parent.

“In our community, we have all kinds of foster and adoptive families who open their hearts and are ready to provide a loving and caring home to children,” she told The Rolla Daily News.

Ben and Rachel Martin, of Steelville, were also on hand looking to adopt. The couple have two teenage children of their own and a two-year old.
“We're looking for a younger brother or sister for our two-year old,” said Ben.
The couple have been licensed foster parents for more than a year and have had a few foster children come through their home.

Gerber said if parents see a child they would like to know more about, during the Linking Hearts event, then that child's social worker would be contacted. Then, they would begin the process to possibly visit and get to know that child’s particular needs. She added that each year a number of successful matches are made.

“Each year, Linking Hearts just keeps getting better. The smiles on the faces of the children and families say it all,” she stated. “We always have great conversations between families and staff about possible 'forever families' for these kids.”
She was equally impressed and grateful for all the help the students in the Missouri S&T Greek system provided.

“Words cannot express my thankfulness to this group of students,” she stated. “They had very creative games for the children to enjoy and were awesome as buddies for the event. We appreciate all that the students do for us. It is incredible how Missouri S&T  students and others in the community find a way to make the life of a child in foster care better.”