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Giving the  gift of home

New Ipswich: Local Christian musicians playing to help families adopt

Music, as the saying goes, brings people together, but rarely will the phrase be realized as powerfully — or literally — as it will this Saturday night, when local Christian musicians will perform at Adopt NOW, a concert to raise money for local families hoping to adopt.

The concert, which will take place at 7 p.m. Saturday at Mascenic Regional High School, will feature musicians from their teens to mid-30s. The youngest, Sierra Sauvola of New Ipswich, is only 15. Several of the musicians participate in Christian worship teams in New Ipswich.

Mary Leighton, 22, of Keene is one of the performers. She sounds bright and full of energy as she talks about the concert over the phone. “I think it’s going to be super fun,” she says — and adds with a laugh, “I might be a little bit biased because I’m part of the team.”

Leighton, who plays piano and guitar and has been singing for as long as she can remember, got her start making music with her four siblings. “My dad was obsessed with the Von Trapp Family Singers,” she says, “so we were [called] the Leighton Family Singers.”

When she was older, she joined her church’s worship team, and eventually they asked her to sing lead on a few songs. One day on the way to a friend’s house, she got an idea for a song and, when she brought it to the worship team, it resonated so well that they set it to music. Leighton says that was when she realized, “Wow, I’m pretty good at this.” She and her fellow musicians will be performing that first song, “Yahweh You Are,” at Adopt NOW.

Leighton is part of the Village Church community in Swanzey, along with fellow performers Derek Stock and Jonathan Mancha . She calls the team “a cross-pollination of musicians.” Often, she explains, even in circles of musicians who make worship music, there’s a sense of competition but, she says, “there’s none of that on this team. We just really want to minister to people.”

Saturday’s Adopt NOW concert is the first in what its organizers hope will become an annual benefit event. This year, the proceeds will go to Hannah and Daniel Ketola of Rindge, who have one 7-year-old daughter and are in the process of adopting a newborn.

The concert will be hosted by the Joy of Life Foundation, a local nonprofit charity. Hannah Ketola explained in a phone interview that the foundation’s original goal was to improve the quality of life for older adopted children, because its founders “realized a need for older children in the foster care system to get out of the city [and] enjoy the country for a day.”

Now, the community members behind Adopt NOW have partnered with the Joy of Life Foundation, Ketola said, “to make adoption easier for families. We want to help children without families to be put into [one], so they can have a loving family to call their own.”

In the next few years, she said, the goal for Adopt NOW concerts is to fundraise for more and more local people adopting.

Leighton, like Ketola, says she’s gotten involved in part because of the importance of families. “I think a lot of today’s problems with kids come out of not having a stable environment growing up,” she said. Too often, she said, young people “don’t have someone to tell them, ‘You’re worthy. You’re awesome.’”

For Leighton, finding families for children is closely linked to her Christian faith. She hopes to communicate the message that children “need a home here,” but she also wants them to know that “they have a heavenly father, too.”

Ketola clarified, however, that the Adopt NOW concert isn’t strictly for Christians. She is expecting between 200 and 300 people to attend. She also emphasized that the event is not just a fundraiser, and its purpose is not just to help her family adopt. Instead, she said, Adopt NOW will be a community experience — hence the free admission. “People aren’t obligated to give; it’s donation-only,” she said. “For me especially, [it’s] more about an opportunity to share music and have a great night of worship.”

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