Late last year, the nation was touched by the story of a New Mexico police officer who adopted a homeless drug addict’s newborn daughter.
But the moving story didn’t just catch the attention of millions of people across the country — the White House noticed as well.
Now, Albuquerque Police Officer Ryan Holets will attend the 2018 State of the Union address on Tuesday as the guest of President Donald Trump and his wife, Melania.
Holets, 27, will join 14 other guests seated in the fist lady’s box as the president delivers his first State of the Union. All of these guests, said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, “represent the unbreakable American spirit.”
In a recent interview with CNN, Holets pondered the weight of being invited to one of the most important speeches of the year as a guest of the president and first lady. He even likened the experience to being in the “twilight zone.”
“We have entered the twilight zone for sure,” he said.
The Trump administration reportedly wants to highlight the story of Holets and his family as it attempts to show how hard it is working to fight the opioid epidemic.
But for the police officer himself, the message he wants to send is an even simpler one. `
“It’s changed my perspective forever,” he said. “I can’t drive anywhere without noticing people that are homeless. I can’t help but notice people that are panhandling. Then I think about everything they’ve gone through.”
Holets first entered the life of his new baby daughter in September 2017, when he responded to a report of a possible theft at a convenience store. As he was leaving, he noticed a couple injecting themselves with heroin behind the store.
The woman, 35-year-old Crystal Champ, was pregnant at the time. Holets turned on his body camera and walked up to the couple.
“Why do you have to be doing that stuff?” he can be heard asking Champ. “It’s going to ruin your baby. You’re going to kill your baby.”
Champ started crying. Later she told CNN she is addicted to crystal meth and heroin. “I’m the first one to know how bad my situation is,” she said, adding, “I know what a horrible person I am.”
At that point, Holets, who already had four children, decided to help.
“I’ve gotten so tired of seeing so many situations where I want to help but can’t,” he said. “And in that moment, I realized I had a chance to help and to heck with the risks.”
His wife, Rebecca Holets, explained that they felt called by God to adopt.
“We feel God has called us to do that,” Rebecca said. “It’s been on our hearts for a while.”
Both Champ and the baby’s father, Tom Key, agreed to let the family adopt their child, and on Oct. 12, the baby — named Hope — came into the world.
Hope needed treatment from doctors to address her withdrawals, but her adopted parents were allowed to take her home after about a week and a half.
Several months later, Hope is doing well.
“She’s gaining weight, eating well, sleeping well,” Ryan told The Washington Post. “We’re just praying and hoping for the best for her. As far as development goes, we won’t know the effects until she’s older.”
Hope’s birth parents, meanwhile, both recently checked into a Florida rehab center.
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