Alta to honor two of their heroes

Thursday, February 2, 2012
The Launderville clan (including grandkids) - front: grandson Blaine, Faith, Charlee, Audree, Carmen, grandson Joshua, granddaughter Jocelyn. Second row: bride JJ, Ashli, grandson Carson, Sandy, Gary, Scott, daughter-in-law Lynann holding Jannesa. Third row: groom BJ holding Ellie Clair, son-in-law Drew holding Wrigley, Angie, Brooke, Raegan holding Jacob. In the back is son-in-law Chris holding Camden. Missing is son Tyrom.

Gary and Sandy Launderville have made a difference in the lives of many. The city of Alta City Council (and other volunteers) want to thank them for their awesomeness at a special event Saturday, Feb. 11 at the Alta Community Center, 1-5 p.m. There will be a short program at 3 p.m.

The Laundervilles have foster parented 125 children (plus or minus, Gary says) over the past 20 years. The family adopted seven of those kids - Scott, Brooke, Tyrom, Audree, Carmen, Charlee and Faith - giving them a new chance for better lives.

The Laundervilles have four biological children - Angie, Ashli, Raegan and JJ - who also opened their hearts and arms to all the little children that came and went from their home all those years.

Life without any of those kids is unimaginable.

The story began when the Laundervilles hosted a foreign exchange student over two decades ago. Pleased with the experience, they hosted another and another. At the same time some good friends of the family had become foster parents and they realized that there were definite needs at home rather than offering a home to foreign exchange students.

So they went through the foster care training with the intention from the beginning that they would not adopt; after all, they had four kids of their own.

As part of the training it was stressed they were to provide a safe, stable and loving home on a temporary basis; they were not to take the place of the biological parents.

It was difficult at times to let go of some of the children that made their way into their hearts. Stays in their home varied from weekends to

"It's human nature - you become attached," Gary said.

On the other side, it was frustrating to see some of the children returned to the situations they had been removed from and knowing there was nothing they could do.

Many of those foster kids have remembered the Laundervilles and what they provided for them. They receive letters and phone calls asking for advice; some even still call them mom and dad and some stop in for visits.

The Laundervilles are still certified as foster parents but currently, with six kids at home, ranging in age from 6-16, they have their hands full.

They love seeing their family together.

"All of the kids know they are adopted but it's never a topic of discussion. There's no questions. They are all brothers and sisters."

The four oldest kids are married and have their own families now; two of the grandchildren, are in fact, older than the youngest Launderville kids which makes it interesting.

Would they add to their family?

"We've said no three times," Gary said. "We never say never. We need to leave that chapter open."

He added, "We're not miracle workers but we can provide a safe, happy home for them. Getting this honor is just the icing on the cake. The kids are the real rewards. We look at how much they have grown from the time they came to live with us to how they are now. I love coming home to them all."

Gary was honored in November at the Honors Game (Iowa vs. Nebraska football) along with a Nebraska woman who had rescued two young boys from a fire. Red Cross leaders and volunteers selected the two from a field of more than 200 nominees.

The Launderville's daughter Ashli had secretly nominated him for the honor - citing the dangers he has faced on the job as BV County's Sheriff, including being struck by an SUV and thrown 20 feet while attempting to rescue a mother and child stranded in a blizzard last January, and the years he and Sandy have spent as a foster parents.

"To some, this may look extraordinary but to Sandy and I it's just an everyday normal thing."