AT Thru-Hike #3 – Julio and “Amber Alert”

“We should not be asking who this child belongs to, but who belongs to this child.”  – Jim Gritter

“Adopting one child won’t change the world, but for that child, the world will change.”  – Unknown

Amber and Julio Colon are two very special people that we’ve known for about 7 years who want to adopt a child.  They have huge hearts for God, each other, and kids.  They are one day going to be AWESOME parents.  Only one significant hurdle remains…raising the remaining funds.  $6645 to be exact.  That’s where you and I come in.  Among my 10 previously blogged about reasons for thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, I want to try to help Amber and Julio close the financial gap so they can bring this adoption to fruition.

Before you consider investing in the future of this child, I’d like for you to get to know Amber and Julio a little better…

Q: So tell us about yourselves?

My childhood was a blessed one. I was born in Bayamon, Puerto Rico and moved to Cranston, Rhode Island when I was 6 years old. I have one older brother (Ricky) and two younger sisters (Rosa and Gretchen). My father and mother, who met in New York City, provided the best they could for their four children. My dad was the sole provider for the family as my mom was a homemaker. My parents always provided a safe, loving, and God-fearing home. Growing up in my home, we knew that every Sunday and Wednesday we would be going to church. As a young teen, I remember some really great weekends at church youth rallies held throughout the state (and sometimes in other nearby states). My mother made the most amazing food! (recipes and methods that I am happy that she shared with Amber). As I entered my high school years my parents were also very supportive of any extracurricular activities. Friday nights meant that they would come see me play football, or they would try to catch a track meet whenever possible. Deciding to go to a Christian University really impacted my future as it was where I met my wife, Amber. Harding University was truly a blessing for me in many ways. While at Harding, I traveled to Australia and Venezuela on mission trips supporting local churches. Those experiences really opened my eyes to the happenings of this world at a relatively young age (19-­21 years old). While at Harding, I also had the priviledge to meet Christians from all parts of the U.S. and even the world. To this day, my time spent at Harding allows me to have connections with brothers and sisters in Christ all over the country. I am now into my fourth year as a teacher at Foundation Christian Academy and just this year also became the Dean of Students. The school has truly been a blessing and has allowed me to grow as a person, a leader, a manager, a role model, a mentor, and a Christian.

My childhood was a happy one. I was blessed beyond measure with a second chance at family via adoption by my mom at age two and my dad at age ten. My Dad and Mom both worked really hard to support us. My dad is a full-time Hospital Pharmacist and unofficial part-time hospital comedian (one of the funniest men I know). He was a huge encourager at my track meets and Show Choir performances. He also encouraged me to join the youth group and introduced me to Church Camp (Highlight of my childhood). My mom is a Respiratory Therapist who spent her time making sure that my 3 other siblings and I had everything we needed. She hosted sleepovers, planned birthday parties, cleaned up after us and made sure we learned tidiness and manners. She would quite literally do anything for any of her children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews.
I am the oldest in my family of four children that I grew up with, (three girls and one very lucky well mothered little brother.) I also have four sisters from my biological parents that I have enjoyed reconnecting with over the past few years. I grew up in Northwest Ohio in a pretty small town. My graduating class only had 62 people in it. We lived out in the country for most of my childhood. I have fond memories of running around in our woods with my siblings and cousins, building teepees, hunting for crawfish, and celebrating every holiday with both sides of our families. I graduated from Van Buren High School in 2001 and went to college at Harding University where I met the love of my life, Julio Colon, and graduated with my MRS. Degree. In all seriousness I left college about a semester short of my Bachelors in Business to pursue a career with The Buckle. Which as it turns out, worked out really well for us. (Sorry parent readers, kids stay in school as it might not work out as well for you!)

Getting Ready
Getting Ready

Q: When did you become a Christian? Who was the most influential person in you becoming a Christian?

Julio: I was raised in the church and do not remember a time when we did not go to church growing up. When I was sixteen years old I decided to be baptized. The most influential people in my walk with Christ have been my parents. My father and my mother have both set an amazing example of what daily Christian living looks like.

I was also raised in the church and have quite a few people who were instrumental to my faith in so many ways. Dauri Shank ,who taught me the basics of the Old and New Testament and showed me unconditional love during a tough transition when my biological dad left. Kathryn Kelly, who humbly demonstrated to me how women and their redeeming stories can be used to lead in the church. Ed and Claudia Beeson, who demonstrated transparency and boldness and showed me what God’s grace looks like in the way they were transparent while living their lives as a “Real” family in full display of the church as Minister and Minister’s Wife. Also, my Grandma Evelyn who embodied what it meant to be a Proverbs 31 wife and who helped me fall in love with singing and acapella music. Last but not least my father, Steve, who showed up, stepped up, and stayed. Without his influence and time and attention he gave me, I wouldn’t be who I am today. I also wouldn’t have known what to look for in a spouse. He baptized me on Sunday, August 18th, 1996.

Q: How did you meet? Was it love at first sight? When did you get married?

We met at Harding University during Julio’s Freshman year and my Sophomore year. With a group of mutual friends, we spent our spring break in Daytona Florida. It was there that Julio and I first began to see each other as more than just friends. We spent the next several weeks speaking to each other for hours on the phone. One Wednesday night at a church service  we held hands for a prayer (we still hold hands for every prayer). We spent time going to Social Club events, visiting our friend’s family homes and hometown congregations, and hanging out at Heber Lake. After about a year and a half, it became clear to both of us that we were better together than on our own and we were ready to get married. Actually, I came from our first date gushing to my roommate that Julio would be who I would marry!  🙂  In the summer of 2004, Julio hiked me all the way to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain and proposed under a beautiful pink sunset.

Q: Where do you work?

Julio: I am a Middle/High School teacher and the Dean of Students at Foundation Christian Academy in Valrico, Florida.

I am a Customer Service loss Reporter at Progressive Insurance in Riverview, Florida.

Q: What do you do for fun? Any hobbies?

Julio: I enjoy exercising and being out in nature. I enjoy working on vehicles and, in fact, do many of the repairs on our vehicles myself. Along with vehicles, I truly enjoy fixing almost anything. I will try to fix things that break in our home before replacing them. Recently, I have also taken to woodworking and have built three different types of tables for Amber as gifts. I also have a deep interest in stocks, investing and financial topics in general.

Amber: I also enjoy nature and being outside, exploring parks and hunting for shark teeth on the beach with Julio. I like to metal detect when I get a chance. I love to hike, canoe, and adventure out with my sister. We recently swam with manatees and it was insanely fun and intimidating. I have also recently began to learn how to fish. I’ve only caught a sunburn so far, but I still have fun. I have a little homemade sign/craft business called “The Polished Anchor”. Last year I did four local craft shows to help raise funds for our adoption. I love to cook and love to try new recipes.

Q: When did you decide you wanted to adopt a child? Was there a particular moment or was it a gradual process?

Amber and I have always wanted children, but deciding to adopt was a gradual process for us. Early in our marriage, Amber wanted to adopt before having any biological children because of the impact adoption had on her own life.  After a couple of years of attempting to start a family, we began to pray and seek advice on the matter. In December of 2014, we announced to our parents that we were hoping to adopt and began making plans to make it possible. Amber stepped down as a store manager with her company and found a position that would make the transition into motherhood possible. We knew that if adoption was within God’s plan that He would make a way for us financially. In August of 2015, with the support of our family, friends, and colleagues we began to raise funds for an adoption.

Q: Take us through the adoption process. What agency are you using? What hurdles have you cleared? What steps remain?

The adoption process can be described as a long journey. The process has its emotional ups and downs but in the end it will all be worth it. We are blessed and overjoyed to be using Christian Family Services as our agency. They are truly a Godsend and are a strong Christian support for both the birth mother and the adopting family. We have cleared several hurdles so far including: having our application accepted, having so many kind people write in reference letters, filling out all kinds of forms, meeting for the first half of our home study, and being on track to raise enough money to make this adoption possible. We still have several steps to go including: filling out many more forms, continuing to raise money, completing the second part of our home study, creating a book that birth mothers will view to get to know us, having a birth mom choose us, and filing legal paperwork for the adoption. There are also many little things that need to get done by the time we complete the adoption. Throughout this adoption journey, Amber and I continue to pray and hope in a God that has this adoption and all things under His control.

Q: What are the costs involved in adopting a child? How much have you raised so far and how much remains? Is there a deadline involved to raise the money?

Infant adoptions can range anywhere from 30k – ­45k.

Thankfully, some friends from church led us to Christian Family Services where we were so excited to find out that our adoption will be around 20K.

We set a goal back in September to raise $12,000. As of Feb 1st we have raised $5,355.

We still need to raise an additional $6,645.

As for a deadline, once we publish our family profile book it will be shown to potential birth mothers. We need to have the rest of the funds to match and then finalize. We are fully trusting God and His timing.

Q: You’ve done some crazy things to try and raise the money. Tell us about some of them. What’s the weirdest or craziest suggestion you’ve gotten so far?

Oh my Goodness… did ya’ll know Mr. Colón can do the Stanky leg? Video link:

Also, he can sculpt a flawless #cheekline
Video link:

We have been asked to make more dancing videos!! Including songs like “Hit the Quan”.

Q: Why do you want to be parents? Do you see yourselves adopting a second child further down the road?

We have been married going on 12 years and we have had so many adventures with college life, careers, reaching goals and enjoying every moment together. Now we are excited to become a loving family for a child and share life with them.

I see us adopting another and, Lord willing, perhaps even a biological baby someday (after all Abraham and Sarah were around 100 years old!).

Q: What type of family environment do you hope to have? Is there a particular aspect of your own upbringing that you hope to incorporate into your family life with this child?

Amber and I are both in clear agreement that this child (and God willing future children) will be raised in the nurture and admonition of The Lord. As children of parents that raised us in the knowledge of the truth of God, we believe in giving our child a firm foundation in Christ. We hope to instill in our child a love for nature and the beautiful things that God created. We also want our child to pursue their dreams. We hope to nurture both by exposing them to many adventures such as exploring state parks, canoeing, camping, enrolling them in athletic teams, Bible Camps, youth group, and taking them on mission trips (local and international), etc.

Q: Are you wanting to adopt a baby or an older child? Why? Will you have a choice in which child you adopt?

Lord willing, we are adopting an infant. Yes, we do get a choice in age.

We have given much thought to this matter. To be honest, we thought about foster care and that might be something we do the second time around. Many kudos to Foster Mommas and Daddies. It takes an immensely strong faith, thick skin and strong heart to wear both of those hats.

As for me, I am not sure I could face giving a child back. We are so excited to become a family and we couldn’t enter down the foster care road until we are certain that we are doing it with the right hearts and motives.

Future Parents…Let’s Help Them Get There!

Q: Will you get to choose the name? If so, any ideas for a boy’s name or girl’s name?

We are deciding the name together, although Amber has a pretty long list of names that she adds to daily with both boy and girl names. What are your ideas, we would love to hear them!?!

Q: Will you know the birth mother? Will the child have an opportunity to know or visit its birth mother down the road? What are the pros and cons of that?

We hope to have an open adoption. This would mean that we will support and nurture a loving relationship with our birth mother. As an adoptee myself (Amber) I feel that each child is so different when it comes to how they process their family story. So ultimately our child will make those choices.

The PROs of open adoption are so many. For the child, a sense of knowing your complete story and not having any secrets or shame to your story. Often times secrets breed feelings of shame.

For the birth mother, she has a chance to learn to trust her decision and heal. For the adoptive parents, they get a chance to convey their gratitude and understanding of the gift that the birth mother entrusted them with. We also get a chance to shine our lights for Jesus and love her the way that He does. There is so much negative stigma about birth mothers. We are excited for a chance to love ours.

The only CONs in open adoption are the risks of hurts and disappointments but at the end of the day openness, transparency, and love always wins.

Q: If Big Steve breaks his leg or gets eaten by a bear on the Trail and thus the pledges don’t materialize, will you forgive him?

Amber: Of course, but Lil Jan might not, so you had better play it safe.

Julio: Amen to Amber’s response! Also, remember that extra hold hair gel mixed with leaves and large sticks makes a great splint for serious injuries.  🙂

Big Steve:  Amber and Julio told me they are already “blessed beyond measure” to have your prayers and emotional support.  For those who are in a position to help financially, here are some options for you…

 1. Pledge a certain amount per mile that Big Steve hikes on the AT.  One cent per mile (@2189.2 miles) would come to $21.89, if I complete the entire hike.  A nickel per mile would come to $109.46.  A dime per mile would come to $218.92.  etc.  You can pledge by commenting on this blog, commenting on the Facebook post, private message, email (, or text (703-403-8492).  Lil Jan will keep track of all that, and once I’m finished , we’ll notify you of miles completed and amount pledged.  Then, assuming you’re able to fulfill the pledge, you can go to the website below to donate.

2. Donate a certain amount now, regardless of how far I make it on the trail.  Donations can be made at:  

Either option is greatly appreciated, but Option 1 will certainly give me added incentive to finish this massively long hike.  Thank you for whatever help you are able to provide.  Your prayers are especially appreciated.  And a huge thanks to Amber and Julio for their willingness to adopt…and allowing us to help them reach that goal.

Big Steve

Questions for Miss Walsh/Mrs. Wilkinson’s and Mr. Reeve’s 5th & 6th Grade FCA Classes:

1. Assuming Big Steve hikes all 2189.2 miles (a big assumption), what total amount would have to be pledged per mile to raise all $6645?
2. Come up with 3 recommended girl names and 3 recommended boy names for Amber and Julio’s adopted baby.  Compile them as a class and give them to Mr. Colon.
3. What dance would you most like to see Mr. Colon do to raise money?  Would it mean more if he did it in front of the whole student body?
4. What are some reasons you think Amber and Julio will make good parents?
5. Do you know anyone who is adopted?  If you are comfortable doing so, please share his/her/your story with your class.


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5 thoughts on “AT Thru-Hike #3 – Julio and “Amber Alert””

  1. Beautiful story! We would love to be a part of this journey toward Julio and Amber becoming parents. It’s great to help inspire Steve along the way too!Both will be in our prayers. We would like to pledge nickel a mile. Looking forward to seeing God work!

    1. Thanks, sis! I appreciate this so much! Next time you and Vin do a Florida vacation, I want you to meet the Colons (and their new baby). Really a terrific couple. BTW, your pledge takes us to $2543.12 pledged! If you are also inspired to send me some of those peanut butter cookies with the hershey’s kisses on them during my hike, Janet will have the addresses. Thanks again for the support. Love you!

  2. Ok, Greg and I are putting in our nickel. Happy for the opportunity to help the wonderful Colon family and incentivize Steve! Praying for all, the Girards.

    1. Team Girard! Thank you guys so much! You just moved our total pledged to $2652.58! While my long-distance hiking skills are un-tested, I don’t have to tell you that the Colons being solid Christian parents is a really safe investment. Can’t wait to meet their little boy/girl, and one day tell him/her tales of some incidents involving their dad at the FCA Bunny Farm. One other thing…if my pace starts to slow or stall, please have Greg come to wherever I am and throw an eraser at me! Thanks again for your support!

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