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Heart Gallery aims to raise awareness about adoption

The traveling Rhode Island Heart Gallery exhibits professional portraits of children in state care. (WJAR)

Once foster children, Michelle Saunders and her sisters were eventually adopted.

"My parents that adopted us had no children, decided to foster children," Saunders said. "Now they have a family of grandchildren. There's now 10 of us in that little family that just had the two of them."

As an adult, she learned her biological father had other children in state care.

"I was 31 and I ended up taking one of my siblings, who was age 12 at the time. I became a kinship foster parent to him," Saunders said. "He is now 25, and he lives in L.A. He's doing freelance IT work and trying to get into the music business."

Saunders knows firsthand how adoption can change lives.

Now a human resources executive with Ocean State Job Lot, she and other company leaders brought the traveling Rhode Island Heart Gallery to their headquarters in North Kingstown.

The exhibit of professional portraits of children in state care was created to raise awareness about the need for adoptive families and to get people thinking.

"Everyone who comes in here -- we had a vendor who came in this morning -- and they were just blown away at the expression in these kids' faces, and also the stories that accompany them," Saunders said.

Hundreds of people walked by the gallery last month. The hope is that some of them will decide to step up.

"It's not just about changing a child's life. It's about changing your life and changing the life of your family and making a difference for someone that really needs it," Saunders said.

The Heart Gallery is moving to the Rhode Island Foundation in downtown Providence.

The number for Adoption Rhode Island is 401-865-6000.

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