October is a bittersweet month for several Lake Norman families, as the children they’ve hosted since June are returning to their homes in Afghanistan. The children have been here thanks to Solace for the Children, a Mooresville-based nonprofit that provides medical, dental and optical care to needy kids. The local families who have participated say it’s been a life-changing experience. “This has been one of the best decisions we’ve ever made,” says Michele Tilton, who along with her husband, Keith, welcomed five-year-old Farishta into their Mooresville home this summer. “She’s just so incredible to be around. It’s going to be really difficult to send her back home.”
On shifting focus: Originally known as Lake Norman Children’s Relief, the nonprofit was launched in 1997 to assist kids from Belarus who were affected by the Chernobyl disaster, says Sandy Tabor-Gray, branch coordinator for Solace. As fewer children from the Eastern European country required medical attention, the nonprofit’s founders, including Dick and Patsy Wilson of Mooresville, shifted the organization’s focus in 2007 to help kids in war-torn Afghanistan.
On community support: Over the past four years, Solace for the Children has brought over 250 Afghanistan kids to the Lake Norman area, says Tabor-Gray. Local churches cover the costs of bringing the children here, and during their stay the medical community, including Presbyterian Hospital Huntersville, donates its services. Moreover, a number of area businesses host free events for the children and their host families, such as Carrigan Farms and Lake Norman YMCA in Davidson. “We could not help these beautiful children without the tremendous support of the local community,” says Tabor-Gray.
On creating memories: Lisa Polk of Mooresville heard about Solace for the Children through her church years ago, but was always too intimidated get involved. But early this year she and her husband, Charles, felt compelled to help, and in June welcomed 13-year-old Homa, who had surgery to correct an old head injury. During Homa’s stay, Lisa and her family have taken her all over the area, including out on their boat and swimming in the lake. It’s been a special time for everyone, especially the Polk’s 14-year-old daughter, Lauren, who has become close friends with Homa. “She’s really become part of the family,” says Lisa. “It’s been an amazing, unforgettable experience.”
More information: www.solaceforthechildren.org.