LIMA — It was a hug more than 22 years in the making.
After a brief, yet amazingly effective Facebook campaign, Carrie Leach, of New Philadelphia, traveled for three hours Saturday to be reunited with her mother, Kelly Brown Gallant, in Lima. Their first tearful embrace was the first time the mother and daughter had been together since Gallant placed Leach for adoption back in 1991.
“When I first saw her, I really don’t even know what I was feeling,” Gallant said. “I was finally looking into my daughter’s eyes for the first time, and it’s a very good feeling, just different.”
“When I first saw her, all I thought was, ‘That’s her,’” Leach said. “I hugged my grandmother before I hugged her and when I saw her walk out the door was, ‘That’s her. That’s my mom.’”
Neither were able to speak as they shared their first hug, both overwhelmed with a flood of emotions.
“There were too many emotions going on to even know what I was feeling,” Gallant said.
“I didn’t know what to say or what to do,” Leach said. “There are so many emotions, you don’t really know which one to go with. You’re smiling, but you’re crying, too.”
However, both of them, along with Leach’s brother and sister, Roger Brown and Aleshia Speicher, could immediately see the family resemblance.
“She definitely has our eyes and she is built just like me,” Gallant said. “My other daughter is shorter and has a little different build, but Carrie is built just like me. It was like hugging myself, if that makes sense.”
“I had seen her Facebook post and scrolled past it and then I looked at it later and saw that the birthdate and birthplace were the same as our sister, who we always knew as Laura,” Speicher said. “I looked and saw we had the same eyes and the same dark hair.”
For the entire family, Saturday’s reunion marked the end of a long search.
“I’ve always just wanted to know,” she said. “I’ve always known I was adopted, and for anyone who’s been adopted, it’s always in the back of your mind, wondering where you come from or who you look like.”
“We were getting ready to go through an agency that helps reunite families like this,” Speicher said. “But they wanted $1,400 to do the work.”
It turned out that all Leach needed was a poster board and a photo on Facebook, a fact that amazes Gallant.
“In 1991, Facebook wasn’t even thought of,” she said. “You would never know that technology would come that far in 22 years to where she could take a picture of herself holding a sign and it would go viral. Everyone we talked to in Lima said that they saw that picture.”
After spending some time together, Leach feels very comfortable with her new family.
“Actually seeing them, it was hard to take in all at once,” she said. “But at the same time, I already feel like part of this family, laughing and joking around.”
“None of us feel awkward around each other,” Gallant said. “Everything just fits. Everyone gets along great. It’s like they were never apart.”
Saturday’s reunion put an end to 22 years of longing, of what ifs and heartache all because of a young woman taking a chance on social media.
“I was excited to have a mom, a sister and a brother, but to meet in person, that hug is when you’re healed completely,” Leach said. “It was wonderful when we found each other, but that final touch is what really did it.”