By Stewart Lytle
REGIONAL – On National Adoption Day, last Friday, 13 children, along with three rocking horses, painted
by students at the Clark School in Rowley, were adopted and given new homes.
Essex County Chief Justice John Casey called the fourth annual adoption day ceremony at the Essex
County Probate Court “a joyous occasion.” The adopted children’s names were added with leaves Clark
students made from recycled bottles to a Tree of Life that celebrates dozens of North Shore adoptions.
The four rocking horses – Piper, Perilla, Travis and Roxy — were created by Don Stokes, Jocelynne Welch
and Mark Little at Abacus Builders in Boston. The horses came with saddles, blankets of world flags and
exotic manes, including painted and stained mop heads. The students painted them under the guidance
of art director Jeph Ellis.
The Clark School educates about 150 students from kindergarten through high school.
The horses were painted by Clark students Farah Berty, Lilla Campbell, Lila Mulvey, Katie Ryan, Hazel
Pericola, Meagen Kaneko and Bella Campoli.
Three of the horses will be given homes where they will entertain children at the Department of
Children and Families office in Salem, the Adoption Journeys Child & Family Services in Lawrence and the
Children’s Law Center in Lynn. A fourth horse will return to the Clark School.
The blanket of flags from around the world on each horse symbolizes the international nature of
adoption today. Ellis, who was adopted himself, told the crowd that packed the probate courtroom,
“Adoption knows no borders. Adoption is human.”
Instead of he usual nine months of pregnancy, Ellis’ parents, who attended the ceremony, waited nine
years for the call from the agency that helped them adopt young Jeph. In what he described as an
adventure, Ellis said, “I have always felt loved.”
He now has two children of his own. In recent years, he found his birth mother and has a good
relationship with two siblings.
Army Lt. Col. Marisol Chalas, who adopted her niece after her sister died, said there are 113,000 children
in the U.S. waiting to be adopted. The Blackhawk helicopter pilot, stationed in California, came to the
U.S. as a child from the Dominican Republic. She is the first in her family to go to school and now
commands a California base.
The Clark students volunteered their time and creativity to paint the horses, Ellis said. “There was a lot
of love and excitement that went into it,” he said.
The adoptions were conducted by First Justice Frances Giordano, Hon. Michael Anderson, Hon. Rudolph
Black, Hon. Elizabeth Teixeira and Hon. Jennifer Ulwick. The celebration was organized by Debbie Noyes,
the Essex County Adoption Coordinator.
Event sponsors include the Essex Bar Assn., Ryan & Wood Distilleries in Gloucester and Todd Flannery,
owner of Flannery’s Handyman.