One kid’s good deed helps many orphans find families

Mar 21, 2024, 6:00 PM | Updated: Mar 22, 2024, 7:54 am

KAYSVILLE — An orphan now has a home, thanks to a Kaysville 7-year-old who gave up her trip to Disneyland.

The story goes back 10 years, and both kids are now nearly adults. KSL TV’s Mike Anderson was the only reporter there since the beginning to show that they’re both helping many other kids find families.

The story is about one kind of act that leads to many more as 7-year-old Brooklyn McKenzie raised money to go to Disneyland but decided she could instead help another kid with a greater need.

Little Brooklyn McKenzie

Brooklyn McKenzie when she was 7 years old. (McKenzie family)

“I remember just going to knock on people’s doors,” McKenzie said. “I thought he needed a family more than I needed a trip to Disneyland.”

McKenzie sold her mom’s blackberry jam to get money for a Disney vacation. But she changed her mind when she saw a fundraiser to find a family for young Janus, who was at an orphanage in Colombia.

Young Jose Janus. (Mike Anderson)

This photo shows a young Jose Janus who was at an orphanage in Columbia. (Janus family)

McKenzie raised just enough money for the fundraising goal set by Janus.  For a long time, it still seemed like Janus might never find a home.

“Every year I make jam and every year I think of him,” McKenzie said. “And over the years I’ve just been heartbroken.”

McKenzie and her mom weren’t the only ones concerned.

“For over the next 10 years we advocated for this little guy,” said Brady Murray. He founded RODS Heroes, a nonprofit that helps orphans with Down syndrome find forever families, and the charity behind Janus’ fundraiser 10 years ago.

At the time Janus was about to age out of the system, Murray and others went down to Colombia to meet him.

“And from that advocacy tripe, we have over 20 children right now that are in the process of being adopted,” Murray said.

You might say they overachieved. They also got more pictures to share of Janus and someone took notice.

“And then I said, ‘Ryan, you need to look at this.’ Since we’ve talked about adoption in the past, I think we found him,” Melanie Janus said.

Melanie and Ryan Janus realized Jose was theirs. A good fit as their son Ty’s little brother.

Janus Family

Jose Janus and his family. (Mike Anderson, KSL TV)

Ty Janus said, “He’s my brother I love.”

“People who maybe don’t have Down syndrome folks in their life, they just don’t know. But they really are some of the happiest, coolest, well-adjusted people on the planet,” Ryan Janus added.

That was on display on World Down Syndrome Day on Thursday. These guys, just as much as anyone, deserve to be loved. It’s something Murray discovered when his oldest, Nash, was born. It’s something he hopes many others will discover.

“The reality is with adoption, oftentimes it’s not common sense. It’s something much deeper than that. It comes from within,” Murray said.

And from within, comes that need to give. Even a jar of jam and a lot of kindness can go a long way.

“Brooklyn answered that call at 7 years old. Everyone can make a difference no matter what it is,” Melanie McKenzie said.

A special donor is sending the McKenzie and Janus families to Disneyland together. Out of that trip to Colombia, Brady Murray and his wife decided to adopt four kids from the orphanage themselves.

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One kid’s good deed helps many orphans find families