All, this is a long story but well worth the read. I left Jesse’s incredible adoption story in his words, as they are most compelling and insightful that way. Thank you to Stephanie, his sweet wife for collaborating with me and sending all the great photos shown throughout the story.
Jesse and Stephanie Clooten
Where are you from?
Bismarck, North Dakota
How were your introduced to MonaVie?
Friends, Renita and Scott Brannan, approached Stephanie invited us for dinner and afterwards shared the product and opportunity. As we were talking, getting to know each other, they brought up The MORE Project. Our eyes lit up, as theirs did. I have been looking long and hard for most of my adult life for a charity such as this, with a cause so great…and there was a reason for my question for such greatness.
Tell us about your story and your “why”…
When my parents were just starting out as a young couple, they were like most new couples with very little money, no kids, and just their friends, family, and church for support. They have always been very strong in their faith and did their best to live their lives the way God would want them to. One night, my mother said she was awakened suddenly. She sat up and there at the foot of their bed, stood what she described as “an angel,” who said, “Debbie, there are two small boys in Colombia that need your help. If you don’t save them, they will die.” She went back to bed with mixed emotions, and dozens of questions in her head. She had never encountered something like this, and thus, she couldn’t just ignore it.
The next day, she called her pastor at the church. She didn’t know what all this meant, but she had to follow through or she would never know. The church got the ball rolling on her decision to go to Colombia. They helped fund their trip to Bogotá, hired a translator, and aided in getting through whatever red tape there was. As you can imagine, there was plenty of it! There had never been a live adoption to the United States from Bogotá, so these people had to have faith to go into uncharted territory, with nothing more than a dream to go on!
My parents arrived at the orphanage, where they were surrounded by over a hundred children, all desperate for attention and adoption. My mother said it was hard to visit them, and even harder to leave them. My brother and I were separated in the orphanage; I with the infants and toddlers, and John on a different floor with the older kids. My mom chose two boys at random. We didn’t know until we got back to the U.S. that we were actually blood related. My parents were later told that we had the same mother with different fathers. This was no surprise, as most orphaned kids had mothers who had been victims of rape, crime, drug addiction, etc. Many of the mothers were still teenagers and didn’t have a clue as how to take care of themselves or their children.
I don’t know who my biological mother is, but it took me some time to realize what a blessing her “abandoning me” really was. My new parents had just gone from having no children, flying to a foreign country, picking up two children with no known history, who didn’t speak a drop of English and bringing them back to their home. These people are the bravest of the brave!
On our flight to the U.S., I bit my mother on the neck, drawing blood and causing a scene. My brother and I had never seen or been on a plane before. When we got to the airport, we had pizza for the first time. No surprise that we ate it with such excitement we both ended up sick and throwing it back up.
A few years later my parents adopted my sister, Lacey, from Colombia and then came the birth of my “homemade” sisters, Kelsey, then McKenzie.
My parents did everything for us, even spoiling me to the point of rottenness! I was the troublemaker with the fancy clothes, cool toys, and as smooth talker, I got away with everything. It wasn’t until I met my wife, Stephanie, that I started to settle down and realize what a miracle my presence on this earth really was. We dated for six years, married and had Jaxon (5) and Harbor (3). It wasn’t until Jaxon was about the same age as I was when I was abandoned that it really hit me - how could my mom just walk away from someone so innocent, so sweet, so helpless?
The thought brought me to tears. My wife sat up with me many nights, assuring me that my mother’s decision to send me out on my own was not taken lightly. Maybe she was sick, injured, in a dangerous situation, etc. She knew that whatever she could provide me, would be much less than what my brother and I could find on our own.
After many months of my dreams filled with nightmares and a pit in my stomach, I decided that the best way for me to “get over this” was to move on and try to pay forward what my adopted parents had done for me. My wife and I couldn’t afford to adopt, and we already had small children of our own. The next best thing would be charity work. I worked on the boards of a few local non-profit organizations, but it was mostly helping older people with home repair and yard work. Although it was quite gratifying, it wasn’t satisfying my need to help other children like myself.
After meeting with Scott and Renita, you can tell why we were excited to hear about The MORE Project! Not only was it exactly what we’d been looking forward to serving, but it also had a great product that had already paid our family a priceless fee.
Now we have big dreams for our new business venture with MonaVie. We feel it will complete our lives and help us pay it forward. In the words of Dallin Larsen, “If you’re blessed, be a blessing.”
While we’ve only been in MonaVie for three weeks, we’re already changing the lives of others, and thus, improving our own family’s life in the process.