It was a tall order.
After raising passels of children – seven of their own, several from foster care and elsewhere – the home of Kym and David Thurman was, shall we say, in need of a little work.
“She’s wanted a paint job on the walls and ceilings for a while,” friend Marcy Oliver said. “But if you’ve seen how high their ceiling is, how tall the walls are, you know what a big job that would be. Kym had no idea how she was going to do it.”
The Thurman home, with its soaring cathedral ceiling, five bedrooms and a loft, is big enough to accommodate their children – not just those they have raised since birth, but those they have adopted or fostered and those friends of their kids who needed a safe place to stay.
“We’ve always wanted a home full of kids, and we were blessed with that,” Kym Thurman said. “And now I’m 52 and I have a 2-year-old, and it blows my mind.”
Which is to say that the Thurmans’ home isn’t the only thing that is big – their hearts are, too.
David and Kym met 34 years ago when she was a church youth director and he was a camp counselor, so perhaps it is not surprising that they both love children.
They married in 1988 and moved around the country with their growing family while David served in the Air Force, retiring in Albuquerque four years ago. Kym was an art major in college but set that aside to raise their kids.
While living in North Carolina and as their children grew older, they thought about becoming foster parents with the hopes of adopting, especially children with special needs who might otherwise fall through the cracks. But state rules did not allow them to foster because of how many children they already had in the home, even though several of their children were nearly ready to leave the nest.
“Our children were the ones who were so supportive of this idea,” Kym said. “And we started thinking, you know, our kids are such brilliant, wonderful children. They would be great brothers and sisters to foster kids.”
Undeterred, the Thurmans turned to prayer, and in 2013 through a private adoption came Olivia Rose, an infant with cerebral palsy, epilepsy, cortical vision impairment and schizencephaly, a rare brain disorder.
“Every child is special and precious and wonderful, but when you take so much away from a child like Olivia Rose, you see this pure soul,” Kym said. “We took a great leap of faith that we could do this, but we now know that we’re the lucky ones. We get to be her parents.”
In all, the Thurmans have 10 children, ranging in age from 29 to 2, the oldest four who are scattered across the country, the youngest whose adoption they expect to finalize this week.
As if that wasn’t enough, Kym found time to involve herself with New Mexico Child First Network, which provides support and advocacy for foster parents and children.
She spent hours organizing clothing swaps and hours at the Legislature earlier this year, successfully pushing for child-friendly legislation, including a joint memorial to convene a child protective services task force and a bill giving foster families free admission to state museums and parks.
“She works tirelessly to help other foster families and children in foster care,” friend, fellow foster mom and N.M. Child First board member Marcy Oliver said. “She’s one of those people you look at and know what they do and you don’t know how they do it all. I’m just in awe.”
Now that David is retired and can be home more, Kym also found time to go back to college, earning a bachelor’s degree in art in May from the University of New Mexico. In June, her work was featured in a gallery art show.
This summer, she is teaching art at the Hummingbird Music Camp in the Jemez Mountains.
“Some people tell me how amazing we must be for doing all these things with all these children,” she said. “Sometimes, I just think we’re crazy.”
But a good crazy.
Good enough to inspire Oliver to nominate the Thurmans for this year’s second annual Paint It Forward, which rewards a worthy recipient with a free paint job and party courtesy of Mike’s Quality Painting.
“It’s our opportunity to give back in some way,” said Mike Freeman, who has run the business with wife, Miriam Freeman since 2011. “It’s easy to think that you can’t fix all of the world’s problems. But what we can do is what we can fix, and painting is the way we can fix.”
On July 13, at least two dozen painters, their families, friends and others descended on the Thurmans’ Northwest Albuquerque home and painted most of the interior, including that high ceiling.
It was, Kym said, one of those days to be grateful for, when she looked around, mouth agape, at the awesomeness of such kindness and giving.
Then again, every day is like that at the Thurman home.
UpFront is a front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Joline at 823-3603, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @jolinegkg.