PARCHMENT, Mich. — They were a match from the beginning, a Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s deputy and a therapist at Bronson Hospital.
Twenty years ago, Wayne Rantz and his wife, Sarah, decided to pursue her dream of saving children who needed to be saved.
“We took kids who were severely injured. The first child we had adopted was a case Sarah had gotten at the hospital. She came home crying that night and we talked about adopting,” remembers Wayne Rantz.
The first adoption was a little girl named Samantha who had been severely beaten and burned in foster care.
“She had a broken leg and shoulder and she had been burnt with curling irons, they put cigarettes out on her hands,” explains Rantz.
He remembers learning how to wrap her bandages properly at the hospital.
“That was so painful and she cried and we cried. To pick her up and hold her you had to get her up and let her wiggle into a position,” he remembers.
“It was hard for her to get comfortable, but she would and all that is rewarding,” said Rantz.
Over the years, that one adoption turned into a dozen, all children with special needs and handicaps.
The Rantz family experienced tough obstacles throughout their journey, but constantly worked to keep up with the demands.
Their home, tucked away in Parchment, was renovated to include more beds and wheelchairs.
The adoptions were referred to them from across the country, including Julian, who came to them from California 10 years ago.
“I remember picking him up at the airport. He had been in an institution,” said Rantz.
“I thought he was a great kid, still is.”
Julian Rantz, 20, is blind but very chatty. He can walk with the help of a walker and is excited about the upcoming prom at his school.
“I can do the gator dance,” Julian laughs.
He and four of his adopted siblings attend WoodsEdge Learning Center in Portage, which serves students with severe disabilities.
“They had such an adequate nursing staff there and everyone knows CPR, everyone knows how to handle seizures. I felt they were safe,” dad says.
The journey for Wayne Rantz has been one filled with both rewards and heartache. The biggest blows came when two of the children passed away.
Then, in 2011, his wife died after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. Everything changed.
“When my wife passed away I had some friends say are you going to get rid of them kids now and get back to your life? I said they are my life,” said Rantz.
These days Wayne Rantz devotes most of his time to the kids, getting assistance with care from friends and his stepchildren.
“That’s my bed, I haven’t had my bedroom in over 10 years,” he points to a couch near the children.
“I’ve got to sleep near them in case one of them has a seizure or whatever during the night,” said Rantz.
Walking into the home, it can be shocking. A little boy named Markus, who was a fetal alcohol child, is constantly rocking himself while Jordan, a grown boy with diapers, needs to be changed and carried.
“It’s a lot of work,” said Rantz.
“What’s rewarding is these kids are alive. There was four of them that had a life expectancy that they went years and years beyond.”
While dad can’t change their painful pasts, he has been able to impact their daily lives, give them a home, and lots of love.
“All that is rewarding is that they survive, they are happy and that’s my goal to see them all happy,” said Rantz.