Entertaining and compelling real-life stories with valuable
lessons on how to succeed in business and in life.
The author is successful business, real estate, and media entrepreneur Dick Kazan.
Published on July 23rd, 2013

Dorothy DeBolt: co-founder of the U.S.’s first special needs adoption agency.

Dorothy and her husband Bob had six biological children and adopted 14 more children, most of them with special needs. And in 1973, they founded Adopt A Special Kid, (AASK), the first U.S. organization to focus on special needs children.

Here is Dorothy’s incredible story:

Born in San Francisco on December 23rd, 1923, the eldest of two children, Dorothy attended UC Berkeley and then became a pianist.

But when Dorothy married Ted Atwood, she gave up her music career in the 1950’s to eventually become the mother of five children. She and Ted then opened their hearts to expand their family further by adopting two Amerasian boys, both unwanted refugees of the Korean War.

But in 1963, Ted died, and Dorothy and the kids were left on their own.

Yet despite her struggles, as the number of victims of the Vietnam War grew, Dorothy added two disabled children from that war.

Now it was Dorothy and nine children, and with money scarce, each of the children pitched in to help one another.

As a woman in her 40’s, Dorothy hoped to remarry, but with nine children, many of them disabled, that seemed unlikely. Then in the late 1960’s Dorothy met Bob DeBolt, a civil engineer who was divorced and had one child.

When he arrived for their first date, he was greeted by Dorothy and her nine children, and as he later recalled, “The door opened,” and “here was this mass of little people.”

But that didn’t scare Bob off and he and Dorothy were married in 1970.

The DeBolts
The DeBolts

And the adoptions continued. The couple started AASK, to help even more seemingly unwanted children to find homes.

These children were paraplegic or blind or had no arms and/or legs, or had spina bifida, or were suffering from wounds or from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, coming out of war zones.

The DeBolt family was so remarkable, that in 1977, actor Henry Winkler (The Fonz from “Happy Days,” among many roles) made an Academy Award winning documentary about Dorothy, Bob and their family entitled, “Who Are the DeBolts? (And Where Did They Get 19 Kids?)”

Later, the DeBolts adopted a 20th child, Reynaldo, a Mexican street kid with a paralyzed leg, who was also featured with the family in a sequel to that documentary.

Dorothy and Bob remained active adoption advocates until 89 year old Dorothy passed away in their El Cajon, California home on February 24th, 2013 of cardiac arrest.

When the Los Angeles Times asked Bob why she adopted so many children and helped so many more, he said it was partly through her faith, as she kept “Thank you, God” signs displayed around the home, but mostly “she was motivated by the fact that because these kids were disabled didn’t mean they weren’t adoptable.

“These weren’t throwaway kids,” he continued. “Her goal was to allow every child to have a permanent home.”

One of Dorothy’s favorite stories was of an instance that took place when she was getting ready for an out-of-town trip and scrambling to get her housework done before the kids got home.

The phone rang and when Dorothy answered, a child said, “Mom, this is Jennifer. Can I go to the playground after school?” Dorothy replied, “Sure honey, but be home by 5,” and then hung up. A few seconds later she realized, “Oh my God, we don’t have a kid named Jennifer.”

It was a story that always made Dorothy laugh as it brought joy to her heart.

Success Tip of the Week: As Dorothy demonstrated, when one’s mission is great enough, there is always a way to achieve it, regardless of a lack of money or other resources.

Editor’s Note: To learn more about AASK which today offers adoption, foster care and family support, please see http://www.aask.org/.
AASK, has now found permanent and loving homes for 2400 special needs children, and through its affiliates, has found homes for thousands more special needs children.

To see a movie trailer for “Who Are the Debolts?” and to listen briefly to Dorothy on that trailer: http://www.amazon.com... The primary source for this story is Dorothy’s Los Angeles Times obit: http://articles.latimes.com...dorothy-debolt

Comment from Reader Allen Glasgow:

This is a great link and story. I have great interest in "throwaway kids" who are moved from foster care family to foster care family, then are thrown out on the street at age 18 with little or no skills.

80% of these kids end up in jail after 1 1/2 years in the real world.

I teach many of these kids. One of my banners I fly is telling as many people as I can that they are hiring on the oil rigs in Long Beach, Ca, , Missouri, Colorado, North Dakota, Arkansas, and many other oil rig and natural gas rigs in the U.S. and across the world.

Just go on Google and type in----Oil rigs in Long Beach, Ca. The companies will appear and you can apply to them directly.

This is one of the few jobs that hire felons. There are thousand of jobs available. I tell kids thinking of joining the armed forces that they could make 50-70K/year with half the effort as going into the military.

I encourage everyone to tell as many people as they can. A good thing would be for them to get their Class A commercial license so they can drive trucks. This pays about 100K/year.

They are also hiring truck drivers all across the U.S. Swift Premium will train and hire prospective drivers.

If I reach one, then I have won. I also talk about other opportunities out there: scholarships, computer training, and more. I also encourage teens to start their own businesses.

Germany gives all kids a test when they are about 14. If they pass, then they go full time to school. If they don't pass, then they go to school half time, and the other half, they learn a trade.

One good reason that Germany has one of the strongest economies in the Eurozone.

One comment could change a students entire life.

in support,


In the next KazanToday: A voice of God when it was desperately needed.

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Many of these short, inspirational success stories are about people from all walks of life who overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles to achieve remarkable results. These stories contain practical advice and a recipe for success for each of these renowned individuals. Some of their stories may help you to avoid some of the costly and time consuming mistakes that many of us make in life and at work. Learn from some of history's greatest winners on how to become a winner yourself, no matter what the obstacle, and no matter how daunting the task before you may seem. Good luck!
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