Youth donates blankets to Catholic Charities

Making fleece blankets for adopted babies has special meaning for Claire Casteel

ALLOUEZ — When 9-year-old Claire Casteel needed to choose a community service project to earn a black belt in karate, she decided to make two colorful fleece tie blankets and donate them to Catholic Charities. Her goal was to give the blankets to families who had adopted a baby through the Catholic Charities adoption program.

In late September, Claire and her mother, Debra, presented the blankets to Chelsea Baucom-Young, an adoption specialist for Catholic Charities.

Claire Casteel, 9, poses for a photo Oct. 25 with her mother, Debra, and brother, Griffin, next to the fleece blankets she made for adoptive babies. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

Accomplishing her community service goal — one of three goals required to earn a black belt at Courage Martial Arts in Green Bay — gave Claire more than just the satisfaction of fulfilling her required task. For Claire, and for her parents, Debra and Robert, donating the blankets to newly-adopted babies through Catholic Charities meant giving back to the agency that brought Claire and her adoptive parents together nine years ago.

“The Casteels have stayed in touch with Catholic Charities over all of the years,” said Baucom-Young, who helped the parents with Claire’s adoption. “They send us Christmas cards and come to our events. I think the awesome thing is that they are so community driven and giving.”

“It’s always been important for us to give back and share that with our children,” said Debra, who teaches English as a second language at Green Bay’s East High School. “Robert and I have chosen Catholic Charities just because it’s so near and dear to us.”

The Casteels, members of St. Bernard Parish, have two other children: Emma, 13, who was also adopted, and Griffin, 6. Emma and Claire are biological sisters. While Emma’s adoption was completed through an agency in Milwaukee, the birth mother, who lives in Green Bay, became pregnant a second time and wanted both children to be raised by the same family.

“The girls’ birth mom reached out when she was pregnant with Claire and wanted to know if we would adopt the baby,” said Debra. The Casteels contacted Catholic Charities in Green Bay, said Baucom-Young, “and Emma’s birth mother was able to receive supportive birth parent counseling during and after her pregnancy with Claire.”

Adoption “has brought us both of our girls and it’s just very important for them to know that there are people out there who are using this service,” said Debra. “Claire knew right away, when she had to do a spirit goal of giving back, that she wanted to do Catholic Charities.”

The spirit goal required Claire to choose a service project she had never done before, said her mother. “They had to learn a new skill and then offer that to a charity. So she had to research how to do tie blankets, buy the material and cut the material.”

“I was adopted here and I decided on blankets because it would keep the babies warm,” Claire said when asked about the project. “It took about three days to make blankets.”

Claire earned her first degree black belt on Sept. 14. In addition to her spirit goal, she completed a body goal (completing the Bellin 10K (6.2-mile) run last June) and mind goal (learning sign language).

Baucom-Young said Claire’s willingness to share her gifts with other adoptive families was an example of how the adoption experience has come full circle.

“We get to share Claire’s story (with the two families receiving the blankets) about how she’s now giving back and how impactful Catholic Charities has been,” said Baucom-Young, “and then they are experiencing it and plus they get to receive this wonderful gift.”

Catholic Charities helped facilitate 14 infant adoptions in 2018, added Baucom-Young. For more information about adoption through Catholic Charities, visit newcatholic charities.org/adoption.