Wayne and Meghan Dickinson four years ago left for the Ukraine intending to bring home one child. They adopted two kids. Two years later they returned to the Ukraine to adopt another child.
All three children — Macey, 8, Marcus, 7 and Mia, 6 — have Down's Syndrome.
Mia, the girl the Dickinsons adopted two years ago, is part of Barons Buddies, which held a kickoff party Tuesday night at the Cox Convention Center. The program matches a Barons player with a Special Olympics child and their family, a relationship that lasts all season.
“We have friends who had been overseas who saw children with disabilities neglected, malnourished. That was eye opening,” Meghan said. “Macey was only 4, but they send children with mental disabilities to adult mental asylums.
“We homeschool our children. It allowed us to be over there five weeks. We left a family of four and returned a family of six. At the time we didn't know it, but Macey needed lifesaving, open-heart surgery. It's a surgery she should have had when she was 6 months old.”
Meghan and Wayne have two other children, Taylor, a daughter who is senior in high school, and seventh-grade son Tanner.
Last season, Macey was involved in the program, which also is supported by the Oklahoma City Police. Special Olympics raises its own funds for the program by auctioning off Barons jerseys, Christmas decoration fundraisers and other events.
Defenseman Alex Plante was Macey's “buddy” last season. Plante, from Canada, got married this past summer in Sweden and moved to Austria. But last season, Plante lived six weeks with the Dickinsons after he broke his jaw in a game.
“He had no family here,” Meghan said. “Because we had gotten to really know him, we were his family here. This isn't just about this program, which is so great. This program introduced us to a lifelong friendship. We still stay in contact with Alex through Facebook, Skype. We're good friends.”
Mia's “buddy” this season is Brad Hunt, a 25-year-old defenseman from Canada who was introduced to the Dickinsons Tuesday night.
“This is an awesome experience,” Hunt said. “I've never really done anything like this before. It really opens your eyes. Mia is in a great situation coming from the Ukraine. It's a really cool experience. It's great to see the smiles on their faces.”
Meghan said she wasn't a hockey fan before they were part of “Barons Buddies.”
“I absolutely love hockey now,” Meghan said. “I watched a lot of NHL when my husband was in the hospital with a total knee replacement. I was thinking, ‘This is crazy how much I like hockey now.'”