Baby Leo’s Parents Called Off The Divorce, GoFundMe Donations Exceed $500K


In February, we learned of Leo, an Armenian baby born with Down Syndrome. His story caught international attention after his father, Samuel Forrest, took to social media accusing his wife, Ruzan Badalyan, of abandoning their son moments after birth. It certainly tugged at my heartstrings and I wrote about it.

Badalyan then took to social media in her own defense, and I empathized with her, also.

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Now, it seems the couple is back in the news. Fairfax Media in New Zealand is reporting, “Leo’s parents give it a go.” Of course, this is after the GoFundMe page has raised over $500,000, with the most recent donations made just nine days ago.

The news of the reconciliation has piqued the curiosity of skeptics who are clinging to two theories; mom saw dollar signs – motivating her return, or the couple pulled off an amazing scam.

While both are possible, I’m just not certain it’s time to chuck these folks into the same category as Frank Abagnale or Bernie Madoff, even with Samuel Forrest’s somewhat incriminating past, as told by his ex-wife Kylie Forrest.

Apparently dear dad had a family in New Zealand that he left, which included four children, one of which was born after he separated from his former wife.

Yet, even with that information, I still think it is still possible that all those things are extremely unfortunately coincidences – likely not probable, but certainly possible. I know people can make rash decisions during circumstances of troubled emotion. I know that a mother’s bond and love for her child is far greater and more motivating than money, for most. I know people can have a change of heart.

However, there isn’t a doubt in my mind that public perception of these events will trigger outrage among those that feel they have been duped. Donations poured in out of sympathy and support for a father with a child in need. The generosity of strangers paved the way for a brighter future for baby Leo and that was admirable. But, what happens when the warm fuzzies fade to feelings of betrayal?

We are inundated with sad stories, stories of horrific actions carried out by fellow human beings, and those stories often leave us with feelings of helplessness. Crowdfunding sites, like GoFundMe, have been empowering tools to not only those in need with legitimate plights, but they also warm the hearts of donors that have raised over $770 million for so many in their darkest of hours. Abuses, even those that may only be perceived, threaten to jade even the most generous philanthropist.

I don’t know if Leo’s parents knew ahead of time and conspired to defraud thousands of people by making up a story. I don’t know if the story was legit and the mother’s decision to salvage the marriage was based upon monetary gain. But, I do know that Leo is far better off now than he otherwise would have been and, many more of us are now aware of the plight disabled children face in places like Armenia.

At the end of the day, the basic facts do not change, really. A family learned shocking news that their child would face many challenges in life. The family needed help. The kindness of strangers helped them.

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