Five-year-old Michael Clark Jr. had a lot of support at his adoption ceremony.
Clark's entire kindergarten class packed into a courtroom on Thursday to watch their friend become an official member of his new family. His 18 classmates watched the process, and when Clark helped the judge bang the gavel to signify the finalization of his adoption, they waved pink hearts and erupted in cheers.
"He was really excited they were there," Michael's father, David Eaton, said to BuzzFeed News. "He views his classmates as his extended family so it was a highlight for him. He was definitely having fun there."
Michael has been living with Eaton and his wife, Andrea Melvin, since August. He was their first foster child, but Eaton claims that it was "pretty clear right off the bat that he was a really special kid." Michael has an infectious personality and loves talking to new people. As a result, it didn't take long for him to make friends when Eaton and Melvin enrolled him at Wealthy Elementary School in East Grand Rapids, Michigan.
When Eaton and Melvin told Michael's teacher, Kerry McKee, that they wanted to adopt him, McKee felt like it was only right that his new friends be in attendance.
"We have a theme at our school, 'Put a Little Love in Your Heart,' you know that song by Annie Lennox?" McKee said. "I always tell my students that you rise when you lift others, and that's what we did with Michael."
The support wasn't limited to just the school. McKee explained that the biggest obstacle was trying to get nearly 20 kindergartners to the courthouse. But, most of the parents were more than willing to help with the travel.
"We couldn't afford a bus so I emailed the parents asking if six or seven could take off work to drive the kids to the courthouse," she said. "The next morning 14 out of 23 offered to skip work and come."
Kent County shared the moment on their Facebook. The post went viral as people were moved by the support Michael had. Adoptions are normally closed to the public, but this experience was made possible for Michael because of an annual campaign by the county to raise awareness on the need to find children permanent homes.
"We told him that this will be his home forever and that you no longer have to go anywhere else or be taken somewhere else," Eaton said. "He's talked to me about that. It's something that scares him, that he can be moved somewhere again... You don't realize how much permanency and stability mean to a kid."