BY ART BUKOWSKI
TRAVERSE CITY — What may have seemed like a formality to some meant much more to Sabrina Dobb.
Sabrina and husband Lucas Dobb went through an Adoption Day ceremony for Sabrina's daughter Aleah, 8, on Tuesday morning. The pound of a gavel and round of applause made it official: Lucas became Aleah's legal father.
He already served in that capacity, but the official designation gave the entire family comfort.
"The main reason is we want her to have a father and we want her to have a stable family," Sabrina said. "Some people might not think it's worth it to go through this process, but we definitely did. It makes our family whole."
Aleah had a mile-wide grin throughout the ceremony.
"I'm really happy and excited," she said.
Grand Traverse County Probate Judge David Stowe presided over the ceremonies, which for the first time were held at the Hagerty Center so more people could attend. Stowe finalized 21 adoptions of children of all ages.
"It's really gratifying to see so much happiness," said Janet Kronk, family services case manager for the 13th Circuit Court's family division. "People don't usually expect that when they go to court, but this is one of the happiest times you can be in court."
If old enough, each child was allowed to ceremoniously bang the gavel for his or her adoption. Adoption case workers, extended family and more were present to show support.
Kennen Perez, a mere 22 months old, flashed a smile and ran about the Hagerty Center with his new parents, Nan and Nick Perez of Traverse City. Kennen was born in South Korea, as was Nick.
Nick also was adopted, and said he's fortunate to provide Kennen with that same experience.
"I'm just very appreciative of the opportunities that I've been given in my life, and this is my chance to give that opportunity to someone else, a way for me to give back," he said.
Considering Nick's background, the couple leaned toward adoption as soon as they began thinking about building a family. They traveled to South Korea to visit with Kennen before the adoption.
"It is so amazing and wonderful to finally know that Kennen is ours and what we've known in our heart all along is official and on paper," Nan said.
Dan and Mary Carlson, of Traverse City, adopted Ivory, 11, and Pearl, 10. They adopted a baby girl two years ago, but strongly desired to help older children as well. Ivory and Pearl were in the foster system and needed a stable home, and the Carlsons had the time and the space.
"The cute babies are what everybody wants, but there are so many kids ... that need to find a home," Dan said.