Renae Kennedy

“We knew we both wanted to adopt — something I wanted to do as a teenager and something he felt strongly about, having come from a place where there are so many children in need,” said Renae Kennedy of her and husband Matthew’s desire for a family.

“We knew we both wanted to adopt — something I wanted to do as a teenager and something he felt strongly about, having come from a place where there are so many children in need,” said Renae Kennedy of her and husband Matthew’s desire for a family.

Renae came to California from the east coast, and Matthew by way of Zimbabwe and South Africa. They met in South Bay, and he works at the Tropical Waters hair salon on Pier Avenue.

At a church function in Manhattan Beach, they first encountered Valeria, a beautiful, cheerful, seven-year-old orphan visiting from Colombia. “I knew she was my daughter,” said Renae of her initial reaction during that first meeting. “My husband met her, and we decided to pursue adopting her.” The path to bringing Valeria home proved challenging for the couple, many doubting their success due to Matthew’s earlier struggles with addiction. “Through encouragement of family and friends we were able to show that my husband’s path to sobriety is actually a great testimony for youth and we could provide a stable and loving home,” said Renae. Then about half way through the adoption process, she got pregnant. “This was another blow to the process as we were told it could delay the adoption. We asked ourselves how the blessing of this baby could delay — or worse, prevent — Valeria becoming a part of our family.” Fortunately, all went smoothly and Valeria came home June 2008. Simone arrived three months later. Beamed Renae, “We had an instant family.”

The summer they met their daughter, Renae and Matthew also first learned about Kidsave’s Summer Miracles, the program that brought Valeria to Manhattan Beach for five weeks. “This year Valeria felt strongly about hosting a child in the program,” said Renae. “When I called Kidsave about it, they explained that they didn’t have a volunteer coordinator for the LA area and weren’t sure if our city would have the program this year. When I explained this to Valeria she didn’t hesitate and blurted, ‘We can do it mommy!’” Renae took the challenge and now spearheads the local Summer Miracles program — fundraising, finding host families, coordinating their application process, supervising the families and planning the weekly events when the kids are here.

Renae appreciates the safe environment the South Bay creates for her children. “Valeria can’t believe she lives in a place where she can ride her bike outside at night,” she shared. ”Our kids love the big red dog at Metlox. We love to visit Fernando, from Columbia, in downtown Hermosa Beach and walk the trail next to Valley and the Strand.”

She said the community has embraced her biracial, international family. “We try not to take that for granted,” she said. “People are curious about all the accents and what our story is, and it’s celebrated here.”