Sundi Rose
February 06, 2015 12:34 pm

Do NOT ever, ever, ever underestimate the power of a father’s love. Samuel Forrest just overcame a major hurdle as a new dad, and he’s only been at it for a few weeks. He is the proud father to a beautiful son, born January 21st in an Armenian hospital. Since then, Forrest has proven to be a deeply devoted dad to baby Leo, who was born with Down syndrome, as well as a champion for change.

He told ABC News, “They took me in [to] see him and I looked at this guy and I said, he’s beautiful — he’s perfect and I’m absolutely keeping him.” While it may seem strange that NOT keeping Leo was even a consideration, according to Forrest, a native of New Zealand, Armenian hospitals have an unconventional practice.

“What happens when a baby [with Down syndrome] is born here, they will tell you that you don’t have to keep them,” he told ABC News. While Forrest was unwavering in his decision to parent his beloved child, his wife reportedly gave him an ultimatum: give up the child or face a divorce. After Forrest decided to keep Leo, his wife filed for divorce, and Forrest began making plans to return with his newborn son to New Zealand. (His wife confirmed her delivery and divorce to ABC News but wouldn’t comment further on the issue).

Forrest’s situation was unexpected and difficult. He needed to uproot his life, now that his marriage ended just days after becoming a father to his special-needs son. Worried about having the financial ability to support Leo on his own, Samuel started a GoFundMe account, in which he hoped to raise $60,000 to get them through a year of medical care and physical transition. As of midday today, he has raised over $357,000.

Support began flooding in almost immediately after their story went public, and Forrest was overwhelmed with the outpouring of generosity. “Thanks everyone – we are stunned beyond words at the incredible support & love you’ve shown for little Leo,” he wrote.

Now Forrest and baby Leo plan to return to Aukland, and start a new life. Samuel works as a business contractor, and until the GoFundMe account, he didn’t know how they would survive. Now, he plans to use the money to get Leo the best care he can afford, but also to help other families in his same situation.

Forrest wants to use some of the money he’s raised to “fund facilities and programs here in Armenia that will support future parents to keep their kids despite all disabilities, and to help better care for the special ones who end up away from their Mom & Dad,” he writes on his fundraising page. 

“After what I’ve been through with Leo, I’m not going to sit back and watch babies be sent to orphanages,” he told ABC News. “As a child with Down syndrome, that becomes somewhat of a label. If we can get around this label, we’ll see that they’re normal. They’re a little different from us, but they’re still normal,” he says, adding, “This little guy is great.”

(Images via, via)
(Images via, via)
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