This article is from the Fulcrum Foundation’s 2023 Community Report.
Mari Canda first met Lulu on a Friday at 5:30 p.m. It was July 2016 and Lulu was four months old, being placed into foster care. Mari knew instantly that if Lulu wasn’t able to go back to her biological family, that she would adopt her and care for her forever.
Mari officially adopted Lulu when she was four years old, but she had been part of Mari’s family long before then. “I come from a really big family,” said Mari. “There’s my extended family and a lot of what I like to call my soul family. I could not ever imagine not knowing them, so I made a great effort to stay in touch with Lulu’s biological family. Her biological mom and I have a great relationship, and we see her very often.”
When it came time to choose a school for Lulu, Mari already knew the right place: St. George School in Seattle. “I went to Catholic school and I loved it,” said Mari, who attended St. Joseph School in Seattle. “I made lifelong friends there. I wanted Lulu to have the same experience.”
Mari was already familiar with the St. George community, as she’d watched her nephew attend the school from preschool through 8th grade. “The community was so family oriented,” Mari said. “There was so much support. Because I grew up in Seattle, there were a lot of families at St. George’s that we already knew. When I finally decided I was going to foster and maybe adopt, I already knew my kid would go to St. George. It’s been a great decision. I love it here. Monica Wingard, the principal, is awesome. I never want her to retire.”
As a single mom, Mari began looking into tuition assistance for Lulu’s education at St. George. She applied to the Fulcrum Tuition Assistance Grant Program, but then heard about a new program being offered by Fulcrum: the Becraft Scholars Program.
“Monica told me about Becraft and said she thought it would be a great fit for Lulu,” Mari said. She and Lulu were accepted as part of Becraft’s second cohort of students. “[The program] has been such an extreme blessing—which led to an even bigger blessing later.”
Mari said she loves the Becraft focus on family, which mirrors her own priorities. “I’m all about family and whatever I can do to keep families together, enriched, and happy. I love that Becraft is about the whole family and not just one child. There’s always an activity or an event to go to, and Alana makes an effort to keep in touch with all the families to see how things are going,” Mari said, speaking of Fulcrum’s Becraft Scholars Program Director Alana Bell. “I’ll reach out to her just to tell her things and share what Lulu and I are up to, what we’re doing in our lives. I like to keep her in the loop the same way she likes to keep all of us in the know with Becraft.”
And as for that even bigger blessing?
“There’s this other family that is a part of Becraft and their daughter goes to St. Therese,” Mari said. “The first few Becraft events we attended, Lulu and this other little girl were attached at the hip. They just loved each other. I exchanged numbers with her parents and the girls are always asking about each other.”
While Lulu and Mari have a close relationship with Lulu’s biological mother, they have never met her biological father. However, they have been able to meet members of his family. It was on one of these visits, that Mari realized a surprising connection.
“It turns out Lulu and her best friend at St. Therese are actually related to each other!” Mari said. “The girl’s mother is a second cousin to Lulu’s father. And now when we get together, the girls are just inseparable. They keep telling us, ‘It’s okay. We’re family.'”
“It’s crazy how these things work out,” Mari added with a laugh. “Everything happens for a reason. There must have been some divine intervention at work.”
All in all, Mari said that sending Lulu to Catholic school has been “one of the best decisions we’ve made and Becraft has allowed that. I’m not quite sure we would’ve been able to do it without Becraft. When I found out about this scholarship program, it changed everything for us. I’m so grateful.”