Fatherhood, once a dream, now reality for one dad

Published 8:52 am Sunday, June 19, 2016

By Trevier Gonzalez

The Orange Leader

Throughout childhood, we face many questions. Whether from a teacher, close friend or family member, there’s one enigma we all attempt to solve.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

It wasn’t easy for Orange resident Chris Kovach to come up with an answer. Even at the age of 35.

“I didn’t know what I wanted to be, and I still don’t,” Chris said. “It’s been a working progress, but I always wanted to be a dad. I knew that.”

During his eighth grade year at West Orange Stark, Chris met Christi Thayer. What started as a child’s fantasy now had the opportunity to become a reality.

“We started dating the last day of sophomore year, and we’ve been together ever since,” said Christi.

With Chris’s parents owning Steve’s Imports and Christi’s mother establishing the Rose Thayer Academy of Dance in 1982, their families were continually involved within the Orange community. Chris said the academy played a significant role.

“I started helping out at the recitals or whatever backstage, and kind of grew from there,” Chris said. “Christi’s dad used to be stage manager, and at one point he began working for the city of Orange in the police department, so (he) couldn’t be there all the time, so I kind of stepped in.

“Then he got ill — and passed away. So, my role kind of grew from that point in time when Christi’s mom and Christi were dealing with that loss, (I was) trying to help where I could.”

Today, Chris is a husband, business banker and is continuing the role as Thayer’s stage manager.

“I think by seeing my parents serve, and obviously with Christi’s mom and dad being involved in the community, you kind of want to continue that tradition and that kind of legacy,” Chris said. “In the end, it’s all about helping people”

He also had fulfilled his aspiration in what he wanted to become. A father. With the age of his children ranging from three to 12, if Chris isn’t with his five children or working, Christi said he can be found out in the community.

“I like to think that Chris picked up a lot of that from my dad” Christi said. “If someone needs help, (he’s) going to be there. When we were in high school, student council, he wanted to be the head of things, and it just never stopped. He just always wants to be involved in whatever’s going on.”

Chris said he’s just passing on the kindness that was shared with him.

“There’s been plenty of times in our life where we’ve had bumps in the road or challenges thrown at us,” Chris said. “People always lend out a hand to help. You want to be that person for somebody else when the need comes up.”

Back when the family had three children, Jackson, Rose and Thayer, Christi said her husband wanted to help in an even greater way.

“He’s always said ‘I want to adopt, and I want to adopt through the CPS system,’” Christi said. “First he told me we were just going to adopt one, and I was like, ‘OK.’ So we go into the first meeting and I look over at the paper, and he has checked ‘foster,’ and I said, ‘Hold on! You said —’

“’Well, you said if we can help someone along the way, we might as well—’

Christi said when she looked over at their paperwork again, Chris had also checked ‘sibling group.’

‘What are you doing?” Christi said. “We decided one!’ And he goes, ‘You know, if there’s two, that’s fine.’

After going through the certifications and fostering process, the Kovach family received a call to provide a home to a brother and sister. The girl was only one year old, her younger brother, only four weeks.

“Four kids, five kids — it’s going to be nuts either way,” Chris said. “[When] I grew up, there was four of us, and in Christi’s family, they’re three of them, so we’re kind of used to the large family stuff.”

Christi said the family was ecstatic as they introduced the new siblings into their home.

Five months later, however, they ended up going back to their original parents.

“Worst thing in the entire world,” Christi said. “I mean — I still cry thinking about — but, that’s what the plan is.”

Chris said it’s amazing how quickly a child can become one’s own.

“We were questioning, ‘Do we do this anymore?’ It was really, really rough,” Chris said. “But I was like, you know what, there’s kids out there that don’t have homes that need to be placed somewhere.”

After returning the brother and sister to their home, Christi told her husband, “I’ll try this one more time, but I cannot do it again.” The couple decided to do what they thought best.

“You hope that makes a difference in their lives,” Chris said. “Somewhere, down the road because of what we did for them that it makes them have better coping skills, or be able to adjust better to situations.”

The family decided to give it another chance.

“They kept telling us from the beginning, ‘Oh, they’re gonna go home, they’re gonna go home,’” Christi said. “They always say guard your heart. It’s not possible.

“A month later, we got another call. “And they’re still outside — They’re here.”

Christi gestures toward her two youngest children, five-year-old Summer, and Stryker, who is three.

Chris’s care for children doesn’t stop with his own. As a member of the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) board, he provides a voice in court for foster children, and works to help place them in safe, permanent homes.

“They can’t tell you what they need, they can’t voice their opinion,” Chris said. “So that person comes in and tries to give an unbiased opinion.”

Chris, referring to his own children, said this is a common occurrence within the foster care system. When he first met two-year old Summer and Stryker, who was three months, they weren’t in the greatest shape.

“If they were still in the same situation they were in with drugs and domestic abuse, it’d probably just be a cycle repeating,” Chris said. “If you can break that cycle, and hopefully we’re part of the tool that does that, then that’s a success.”

Chris said he wishes he could help more.

“Does our life allow us to have anymore kids? We could probably manage it,” he said. “It’d be even more interesting. That’s why we help with CASA and any other kind of event that supports CPS or that kind of stuff.

“We want to do our part and give back, because there’s so many kids that still need homes and so many placements while they’re going through this process.”

Although Chris is still undecided on what he wants to be when he grows up, in the off-chance his children beat him to the punch, he wants them to be caring.

“For their family, for their friends, — but also for people they don’t know,” Chris said. “I want them to realize that life is so much more than just ‘them.’

“It’s about people we interact with — about people we’ve never met. I want them to be a good person, and to always, if they see something, some bad situation happening, be part of the solution.”

Through his actions, Chris said he hopes to leave an impact.

“Even if it’s one person that you’re making a difference by doing something, then it’s worth it,” he said.

Chris said, though there are some moments of frustration, that’s how life is, and he wouldn’t change a thing.

“It’s definitely interesting, and it’s definitely never dull,” he said.

Chris recalls the time when he saw his oldest daughter, Rose, performing onstage.

“When I see her up there and enjoying it, and you see where she starts out as a little bitty baby, and now, she’s about to be eleven,” the proud father said. “You see her dancing and you see how much joy is in that, I mean — that makes it worth it all.”