While dining at Rosa Mexicana in D.C., Rob and Reece Scheer found themselves interrupted from enjoying an evening out with their four adopted children. A woman sitting nearby hurled comments in their direction that the parents were “destroying” their little boys and “turning them gay.”
“We thought we were the only gay dads in the entire city when we lived there,” Rob says.
Not only are Rob and Reece a same-sex couple raising children, but they are also white parents raising black children. Despite living in the nation’s capitol, the community wasn’t as understanding of the blended family as the Scheers would have hoped.
“We were down at the Mall and I had my baby on my shoulders,” Rob says. “My daughter was holding my hand. My other two boys were holding my husband’s hand. We had an African-American couple literally come up to us and say, ‘How dare you take our children? You can’t teach them how to be black.’ I remember looking at the woman and telling her, ‘You’re right I can’t, but I can teach them how to not be an ugly human being which is what you’re being right now.’”
The couple, who met in D.C. 12 years ago and have been married for seven years, originally wanted to adopt only one baby. In 2009 while waiting for a child, they received a request to foster 4-year-old Amaya and her brother, 2-year-old Makai.
The Scheers fell in love with the kids.
Instead of the one baby they were planning on, they decided to make both Amaya and Makai a permanent part of the family. Later that year the Scheers also adopted two brothers, Greyson and Tristan.
When their children arrived, Rob noticed a disturbing sight. They were carrying trash bags filled with their belongings. It was eerily familiar for Rob, who was a child of the foster care system before becoming homeless at 18.
“I carried my trash bag around my senior year of high school. To jump 30 years later and my children arrive at my home and still have trash bags and hear a social worker tell me, ‘It’s just easier.’ I believe we’re all leaders, but as leaders we do not have the option to stand on the sidelines and watch things that are wrong go by,” Rob says.
Rob and Reece decided to take action and their charity, Comfort Cases was born. The idea was to give foster children real luggage to put their belongings inside. The luggage would also include a toothbrush, a book, a blanket and a new pair of pajamas.
Comfort Cases started out with helping children in the D.C. area but has since expanded to distributing cases to Texas, Detroit, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Seattle, Tennessee and North Carolina.
So far, Comfort Cases has distributed 25,000 cases. Donations can be made at comfortcases.org.
The Scheers’ good work has been recognized nationwide and even landed the couple as guests on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” DeGeneres gifted Comfort Cases a check for $10,000 and $40,000 in Samsonite luggage. While the couple expected a surprise, they weren’t prepared to be given one of the show’s largest gifts.
“I watch ‘Ellen’ so I knew that something was going to happen. There’s no doubt. They don’t ask you to come to ‘Ellen’ and you don’t think something is going to happen,” Rob says.
The check was staggering for the Scheers but the luggage made them even more emotional.
“I get choked up thinking about it. That changed so many kids’ life. We take it for granted how a case can change a child,” Rob says.
Amaya who is now 12; Makai, 10; Greyson, 10; and Tristan, 8, are also involved in helping with Comfort Cases.
“My kids realize it is a privilege to be able to give back. People say it’s a responsibility. No, it’s not a responsibility. Stop patting yourselves on the back. It’s an absolute privilege for us to be able to give back,” Rob says.
The Scheers haven’t just gone to incredible lengths to help foster children but also their own kids. Makai was born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Reece began researching ways to help children with the condition. After reading that animal therapy could cause improvement with the frontal lobe, the couple decided to make a big life decision and bought a farm in Darnestown, Md., in 2011.
“We never once in a thousand years thought we would be milking a goat or taking eggs from a chicken coup much less canning vegetables, but we learned how to do it,” Rob, who admits he and Reece are city boys, says. “Thank God for YouTube and Google.”
Within a weekend of buying the farm, Rob and Reece purchased chickens, ducks and goats. Since moving to the farm, Makai’s improvement has been significant.
“My son Makai has good days and bad days. Last year for the first time, he’s been with us almost nine years, he looked at me and my husband and said ‘I love you,’” Rob says.
While Rob and Reece are the parents, they say their kids have also taught them plenty. Rob says as a father he’s learned the true meaning of patience and unconditional love. For Reece, he learned a special lesson from raising Makai.
“Because of our son, it’s (inspired me) to look at the world upside down. That you’ll see the world at a different angle,” Reece says.
Both these fatherhood life lessons were recently put to the test when Amaya was featured in American Girl Magazine earlier this year. The story delved into Amaya’s foster care background, finally finding her forever home with Rob and Reece and her family’s charity work. The story was vehemently attacked by the conservative organization One Million Moms.
Suddenly the Scheers found themselves a more public target than they had been inside Rosa Mexicana. Rob was forced to leave work early after receiving calls and emails calling him a faggot. Rob and Reece told the children they would lock their doors, shut the windows and ignore their emails until the incident blew over.
“My son Greyson was the one who said ‘Dad, this isn’t the way you raised Makai, Amaya, Tristan and I. You told us if there’s something not right we have to tell people it’s not right and make it right,’” Rob says. “I was like, ‘Wow, you’re 8 years old,’ and he was like ‘We need to face this.’ And all my kids were like ‘Yeah.’ That’s when immediately we opened up our doors and decided to let the press in that night.”
While being in the public eye has been stressful at times for the family, Rob says the attention is worth it to get their message across.
“We’re too obsessed with, ‘Kids in foster care need beds.’ No, they don’t. They need a home. It doesn’t matter if there are two dads or two moms. We make amazing homes and that’s what we need,” Rob says.