This year, in the epicenter of Christmas shopping hustle-and-bustle, sits a display featuring children looking for the most important gift of all: a loving family.
This is the seventh consecutive year the Crystal Mall is hosting the Heart Gallery for November and December. The gallery has pictures of children who are looking to be adopted into homes.
“These are brave kids,” said Paul Gressly, a child services consultant for the Connecticut Department of Children and Families. “We need families to step forward for these kids.”
The Heart Gallery moves around from place to place throughout the year, and just about every state does one, Gressly said. It was started by a social worker in New Mexico and has spread, and now one-third of all adoptions through DCF come from the Heart Gallery, he said.
“Part of it is people don’t even realize the need that exists out there,” Gressly said. “A lot of people go overseas for adoptions when we have kids right here.”
Gressly said the children must agree to have their photos in the Heart Gallery. He added that professional photographers who volunteer their time take the photos.
“We have about 80 photographers who do it,” Gressly said. “We are very fortunate.”
Crystal Mall General Manager Karen Tarentino said the Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce approached the mall about the exhibit seven years ago and the mall has done it ever since. She said she hopes it increases the chance of the children getting adopted.
“It is a good thing to do for the community,” Tarentino said. “I hope it helps the children find a home.”