CEDAR RAPIDS — Even though Kevin Dochterman, 48, has never married, he’s helped support 50 children. And it’s worth every penny of the $600 or so he sends them every month.
“They need the help,” Kevin says, simply.
They are children in Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia. In India, Indonesia and Thailand. In Ghana and Kenya.
The walls of Kevin’s room in the Cedar Rapids house he shares with his parents is covered with their pictures. Souvenirs he’s collected on visits to many of them line shelves. He keeps a scrapbook on each child and a stack of two dozen letters are ready to mail.
“I write to my kids at least once a month,” Kevin says.
The adventure began 15 years ago, a decade after he earned an international trade degree from Kirkwood Community College with a dream to see the world. But, it didn’t work out that way at first as he worked at Econo Foods West and then in 1993 joined Alside Windows where he’s worked on the production line since.
Kevin’s inspiration to reach out to other children first came from his parents, Mary and Ernest, who is retired from Quaker. For more than 30 years, until 2003, they were foster parents to more than 300 children. At times they would have six babies at once. His mother also worked with kindergarten students and baby-sat.
That’s how life for Kevin shaped up in 1998 when he attended an Amy Grant concert in Cedar Rapids. During a break, the “Queen of Christian Pop” star talked about sponsoring a child through Compassion International.
Kevin checked into it, sent $24 for a monthly sponsorship fee, and received a photograph of Katherine, a 5-year girl in Peru whose family lived in extreme poverty. He wrote to her, sent her photographs and family gifts and, in 2002, joined a Compassion International tour at his own expense to visit “his” child.
As he stood with the group, a child’s voice called, “Kevin, Kevin.”
“I turned around,” he says, “and she came running into my arms. It was like we’d been together forever.”
She was 9. They jumped on a trampoline, walked to the park, ate lunch. He met her newborn brother, Willson.
“Little did I know, five years later I became his sponsor,” Kevin says.
Katherine has turned 18 and graduated from the program. In fact, 10 of Kevin’s kids are no longer with it, while 40, some of them correspondent children, remain.
Ask Kevin why he hasn’t married and he’ll joke, “I can’t find someone that’ll accept 40 kids.” But ask why he was meant to help support this many children and he’ll tell you about his dream girl.
On March 24, 2008, Kevin dreamed he was at a child’s birthday party in a foreign land, later identified as Bangladesh.
Online the next day, he selected Anita, 8, wearing the pink shirt, black skirt and with long dark hair as in his dream. Only later did he learn it was her birthday.
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