Adopted Teen Tells Story, Hopes To Help Others Empower Teens Across Alabama – Elmore-Autauga News

By Tatum Northington

Elmore/Autauga News

Bre Shands, who was adopted by the Heart Gallery of Alabama in 2016, is a sophomore decorating a downtown Prattville Christmas tree encouraging families to help Alabama teens in need. Bre was adopted by Brooke and Jerry Shands, and in 2020, while walking the Christmas Tree Trail, Bre told her parents that she wanted to decorate a tree to help other children in need of foster care and adoption. And so the Tree of Heart Gallery by Bre Shands was born.

Bre created the tree with help from her parents, but paid for it herself, worked an after-school job, and used her own money to highlight the adoption. She believes it is “important to share with the community the need for teen foster parents in the state of Alabama. There are so many children who need a loving home and a safe environment to come home to every night,” says Bre.

The tree contains images of children and young people in need of adoption with a QR code you can scan that will take you directly to their adoption page. The tree also has wish lists showing what kids really want for Christmas this year. It definitely tugs at hearts when you look over the tree. Even if you and your family don’t want to adopt, there are ways to minister to children, or even adopt a birthday where you are responsible for making a child’s birthday wishes come true.

Brooke and Jerry told EAN that they originally looked into child adoption but “felt God was calling them in a different direction,” and that’s when they found Heart Gallery. The Heart Gallery is headquartered in Birmingham but helps children across the state.

Brooke has served on the board since adopting Bre and has worked firsthand with many children in need of foster care and adoption. Children with the Heart Gallery “were taken into care through no fault of their own and are looking for their forever families,” the Shands explain.

The Shands family hopes the community will stop by their tree and truly see the “meaning of Christmas” as they look into the eyes of these children. You’ve picked a prime location, right next to the Canoe Trail Sign, which is exactly halfway down the Christmas Trail, and pray that you’ll stop by and send some love to those special children. If you are unable to adopt, please consider donating to Heart Gallery, becoming a mentor, or sponsoring a birthday. Visit the Heart Gallery website for more information.

Grateful for her family, Bre says that as of Tuesday, November 29, it had been exactly six years since they were “official family,” and she genuinely believes every child “deserves the love of a family.”

See more photos below.