Jan 01, 2012 Farah Jadran Uncategorized
“You have quite the family!”
“Yes, we do!” replied Diana Johnson.
Diana and her husband, Dave, a retired fire chief with the Syracuse Fire Department, have a total of 17 children to call their own.
How did their family grow to be so big? Diana says, “it just happened.”
The Johnsons always talked about adopting children. “After we got married, we thought it would be a wonderful thing to do…to build a family this way,” Diana said. Although they were in agreement to adopt children, there was some discrepancy in regard to the number of adoptions that would take place.
“He said six and I said four,” Diana said. She laughed. Again, you must keep in mind, these things “just happen.”
When they were in the process of adopting their first child, Diana unexpectedly became pregnant with their first of three “homemade” children. And so, that adoption was put on hold for about a year.
When Rebecca, now 36, turned one, the adoption paperwork was re-filed and the Johnsons welcomed Tim (now 35) to their family as a six-month-old baby from Korea.
While their family continued to grow, Diana said each adoption, or birth, was done one at a time, and done with care and preparation.
And when it was feasible, Diana and Dave adopted sibling groups. Also, they adopted many older children because they can be harder to place.
The family is now made up of 15 children from the Central New York area and also India, Korea, the Philippines, Germany and Sierra Leone.
Here’s the plan
About two years ago, ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” was looking for a Central New York family to feature on the show. Members of the Syracuse Fire Department were bound and determined to nominate the Johnsons and see them selected for a home makeover.
A nomination video was made by Steve Hoefer and Mary Karpinski, of Inbound Marketing, and then submitted to ABC, but after many months of the decision-making process, the news was both good and bad.
Scott McClurg, co-owner and president of McClurg Remodeling and Construction Services, got the inside scoop from a fellow builder in Long Island who had done work with the ABC show in the past.
“There was good news and bad news,” McClurg said. Although the family was in the running for a home makeover, the network had its number of shows reduced.
Despite this setback, McClurg and other fellow firefighters wanted to “get this done” for Dave and the whole Johnson Family.
With a large group of volunteers, McClurg says renovation plans are in the works for an April renovation for the Johnson home.
The family has been more than humbled by the community’s outreach.
“We didn’t do anything to deserve this,” said Diana Johnson.
McClurg said it’s the family’s selflessness that has made the project very popular to community members.
“They didn’t ask for this or go looking for it,” he said. “Dave is a highly respected fireman and his brothers want to do something for him and his family.”
Dave retired as chief after 35 years of service, and there wasn’t a day that went by that he wasn’t putting others first, McClurg said.
“Been wonderful to know they’re there,” Dave said. “Whatever happens, happens, and we’ll be happy no matter what.”
McClurg and such community members as Beth Baldwin, of the Carol M. Baldwin Breast Cancer Research Fund, have come together to start a registry for the renovation project.
“Instead of writing a check, people can donate a new sink, toilet, or a box of screws to help with the home renovation,” Baldwin said.
Volunteers are still needed and donations as well. Interest community members can visit the “Johnson Family Home Project” Facebook page to learn how to help.
Farah F. Jadran is the associate editor of Parent and Prime, and the managing editor of Syracuse Woman Magazine. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.