ABN Member Spotlight: National Embryo Donation Center
Since 2003, the National Embryo Donation Center (NEDC) has been the country’s leading comprehensive nonprofit embryo donation program. NEDC’s mission is to protect the lives and dignity of human embryos by promoting, facilitating and educating about embryo donation and adoption. They are also the only clinic-based organization that works with families of all races, faiths and ethnic backgrounds.
Read below for a glimpse into the life of one family touched by NEDC's mission.
A REAL-LIFE JOURNEY THROUGH EMBRYO ADOPTION
By Mark Mellinger
“My heart just sank,” Melissa Smart remembers. “I had every emotion imaginable, from sorrow to anger and everything in between.” Those feelings ambushed Melissa’s life one day in 2009. That was the day she found out, after four years of marriage, that she and her husband Tom were completely infertile. Both had dreamed of having a large family. Now it looked like that vision of a house full of kids was destined to remain just that: a vision. The sadness in Melissa’s soul ran deep, leading to an inner angst that stayed anchored in her spirit for a season. “I did not want to adopt at the time and would not discuss it,” Melissa recalls. “My heart was so broken, and I needed time to mourn.”
Fast forward a year, and her heart had healed. That was when Tom came home and told her about a testimony he had heard from Dr. Russell Moore, who at the time was a professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Moore had shared the story of how his family adopted from Russia. As Tom recounted Moore’s words for Melissa, “In that instant, God changed my heart forever for adoption,” she says. Unfortunately, Russia was no longer open to U.S. adoptions. So the Smarts raised money for what they thought would be traditional domestic adoption. The amount they were able to collect, however, was far short of what they needed. What would they do next?
“We had heard about embryo adoption at an adoption conference, but I thought it sounded crazy; like something from a sci-fi movie,” Melissa remembered. “Tom was intrigued, though, and wanted to check it out.” They moved forward, and their search led them to the National Embryo Donation Center in Knoxville. As Tom and Melissa clicked around the website, they realized a frozen embryo transfer (FET) with the NEDC was more affordable than traditional adoption. It would cost almost exactly the amount they had raised. “We headed in that direction, not knowing what God had in store for us,” the Smarts recall.
What the Lord had in store for them can be summed up in one word: a lot. The path of embryo adoption is not always smooth or short. Tom and Melissa endured a failed FET before God blessed them with a beautiful baby girl, Adeline, in May 2013 as a result of their second transfer. “It was a huge celebration when we had her,” Tom and Melissa say. “She is sassy and bossy and very smart. She keeps us on our toes and we could not love her more!”
The Smarts visited the NEDC three more times in the hopes of blessing Adeline with siblings. In December 2016, their third return transfer resulted in twin boys Jonathan and Jeremiah. “Jonathan is the thinker and the cuddler,” Tom and Melissa explain. “Jeremiah is our little ham. He is always laughing and putting on a show.” And the twins aren’t the only recent additions to the household. The same week they learned they were pregnant with the boys, Tom and Melissa welcomed a foster child barely a year old into their home. That child has now been in the house for more than a year. The Smarts finally have the large family for which they longed. It wasn’t just a dream after all.
“God chose to use the NEDC to grow our family,” Tom and Melissa say. “Without the NEDC, the 14 total embryos we adopted would still be frozen in time and these three precious children would not be with us. We will forever be grateful beyond words.”
Learn more about the National Embryo Donation Center HERE.
Mark Mellinger serves as marketing and development director for the National Embryo Donation Center, a Knoxville-based nonprofit. He is also an Emmy award-winning broadcast journalist, a career he continues by working part-time as a news anchor for WATE-TV and talk show host for Bott Radio Network. Also a professional writer, Mark’s articles have been featured by The Washington Post, The Gospel Coalition and Citizen Magazine.
Tiffani Mensch is the Director of Community Engagement for the Alliance for Better Nonprofits (ABN). With over a decade of experience in nonprofit fundraising and community outreach, Tiffani is passionate about helping nonprofits achieve greater mission impact. Before joining ABN, she worked for the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, the University of Tennessee, and Girls Inc. of Santa Fe. Tiffani currently serves as vice president of the board of trustees for Girls Inc. of Knoxville, sits on the 91.9 Inc. WUOT advisory board, and is a peer reviewer and Standards Council member for the Standards for Excellence Institute. She also volunteers with several local nonprofits. She earned her MA from Rhode Island School of Design and a BFA from Rochester Institute of Technology.