How does a single young man in his early twenties become a grandfather in seven days? You can take your wildest guess, but you probably won’t ever figure it out. The answer is a story of love and patience. This is a story of how a 23-year-old emits selflessness on those around him. The story could turn into a feature-length film if producers wanted to do it. Take the time and find out how a young man became a young grandpa in only seven days.
Meet Tommy Connolly
Before everything changed, Tommy Connolly was a thriving college athlete. Then, one day he received a perplexing Facebook message. At 23-years-old, Connolly evolved into a father and a grandfather within a matter of days.
We know you’re wondering how this all happened. What was the message he got on Facebook? How is any of this possible? We assure you, it is and the story is breathtaking. Prepare for the ride; you’re in for a good one.
The Aussie Way
Connolly isn’t from America. He grew up in Queensland, Australia. Growing up Down Under instilled a great sense of adventure into Connolly. Queensland is an Australian state located on the northeast side of the continent. You can see the Great Barrier Reef right offshore.
He’s always out looking for the next journey to embark on, but even he wasn’t prepared for what was to come. An average college student’s life was about to lead in a new direction.
The Hard-Working Athlete
Connolly was a dedicated student-athlete. He competed in track and field for the University of the Sunshine Coast. Anyone who has run track competitively knows the strenuous amount of hours that you must put in to stay in competition shape.
For student-athletes, it’s already hard enough to balance school work and practice, so imagine becoming a father and grandfather. He couldn’t juggle everything, so unfortunately, running had to take a back seat for Connolly. He is very mature for such a young man.
A Positive Light To Everyone
A person who is fun-loving and always keeps a smile on their face is a great person to have as a friend. In this picture, you see Connolly and his great mate, Grimmy during Halloween.
Connolly knows how to make people smile just like his friend is in this photograph. His friends and family say his shining personality is always in good company. Those intangibles translated perfectly for him as he transitioned into the grandfather and father role.
One Who Loves To Travel
Much like with sports, Connolly had to retire another passion of his, or at least find a babysitter. Connolly had a passion for traveling and spent most of his vacation days abroad and seeing places he’s never been to before.
He frequented the United States often and recently traveled to the Sofitel Noosa Pacific Resort with his girlfriend for a romantic couple’s weekend. As we said, for that latest trip, he had to secure a babysitter first.
The Relationship Dynamic
Congratulations, you’re one step closer to uncovering the mystery. Connolly’s girlfriend, Olivia Tauro, is also a talented athlete much like her boyfriend. The two haven’t been officially together for too long, but have been “best mates” for quite a while.
“Only a one year anniversary today since ‘officially’ dating this girl but we’ve been best mates for the best part of 8 years,” Connolly wrote on his Facebook. The twist is, Olivia is not the mother or the grandmother in this situation…
Say Hi To His Cousin, Kiarna Chapman
As we outlined earlier, Connolly is always a pleasure to be around. This includes being highly involved with his family, not only his friends. However, his cousin Kiarna Chapman and him hadn’t seen one another since early 2004.
Of course, he still thought about his little cousin now and then. Connolly often thought about what she was up to, (for reasons we’ll touch on later) so in 2015 she finally contacted him with some vital information.
Distant Cousins For A Reason
One reason why the two didn’t speak for so long was due to Kiarna. She had a hard life and didn’t keep in touch with many family members, not just Connolly. In fact, the last time she updated her Facebook was in May 2011.
She was almost illiterate, didn’t have a phone, and would sleep in the streets. None of the family had an idea about her hardships to that extent. “She’s spent more time on the streets than anywhere else, and knows the police better than she knows her own family,” Connolly said.
Life On Her Own
Until you’ve put yourself in someone’s shoes who’s had it rough, it’s tough to judge. Kiarna’s parents were not involved in her life. The only person she had was her boyfriend, but he was arrested and sent to prison. Kiarna had nothing more than some clothes and a backpack as she wandered the streets.
Kiarna allegedly was using illegal substances as she faced many hurdles in her life. “Not many people know her story. It’s very intense. Nobody deserves the life she’s had,” Connolly said. That’s when Kiarna reached out to her big cousin on Facebook.
Figuring Out How To Help
Being the outstanding person Connolly is, he was determined to help out his little cousin. Her message to him was a cry for help. And like we said earlier, Connolly already had a busy life. He was willing to put his life on pause to assist.
“Life dealt Kiarna a poor hand, and she’s had to play it best she could,” Connolly stated. His plan was to open up his home and bring her in. What happened next could not have been predicted.
Get The Paperwork!
In an interesting turn of events, Connolly pulled off the ultimate assist. After knowing everything that his younger cousin has been through, the track runner decided to get the paperwork together and adopt Kiarna.
She was only 17 so he officially became her legal guardian. He quickly turned into the father figure that she needed. His plan was to keep her off the streets and help her brighten up her future. He even bought her a kitten. The craziest part is still to come…
A Baby On The Way
On top of all the stress Kiarna had to live through, she dropped yet another bomb on her cousin. She would be expecting a child by her boyfriend in jail. Naturally, Connolly was shocked to find out this information.
After adjusting to living with Kiarna, he now had to prepare himself for a newborn baby. That’s something only experience can prepare you for and as it stood, Connolly had no experience raising a child. That didn’t mean he wouldn’t try.
Seven Days Later
In only seven days after the adoption, Kiarna had given birth to her child. Connolly hadn’t even realized she was pregnant at the time of adoption. He didn’t know until she told him for the first time.
“All I wanted was to give this little man a better life than I had – a second chance was all I wanted,” Kiarna said. “Since carrying this gorgeous boy, all of my friends kept telling me that he would be taken away from me.” Luckily, she had her older cousin to prevent that.
A Change In Lifestyle
All the trips, running track, and quality time with friends and his girlfriend were now compromised. Connolly’s life changed drastically from one week to the next like no one could have ever seen.
Connolly was forced to move into a different house in order to have more space for everything. His life went from young adult to young father. He accompanied her on trips to the doctor, bought the baby everything he needed, and sacrificed his leisure time.
Tommy Is Delighted To Help
By now, you know how generous Connolly is. A task like this isn’t really a task at all for him. He knew his cousin was in need of help so he did what he had to do because she had no one else there to help.
“Glad to finally say she’s now living in a safe, stable, awesome house … with a brand new bed, and brand new life,” he said. All of these things add up and help show Kiarna what living a positive life looks and feels like. He may be providing the groundwork for her, but Kiarna isn’t snoozing on the job.
She Handles A Bulk Of The Load
As humble as he can be, Connolly admitted he took up the father role, but he also downplayed the amount of effort he put into helping. Kiarna isn’t his true daughter, but the love he provides replicates a real father.
As far as the “work” he does, he claims Kiarna holds the lion’s share of it. “My cousin does 90 percent of the work– and if it’s one or two years of my life I have to put on hold to make sure two lives are going to be saved, it’s nothing at all,” he said.
Highly Supportive Girlfriend
It’s always great to have a support system around that understands who you are as a person. Oliva has been in Connolly’s life for years now and she has a pretty firm understanding of how her boyfriend is. She knows he would do anything to help those in need.
Through it all, she supported her boyfriend and also helped raise young Kayden whenever she can. Even though this is a good thing in many people’s eyes, Connolly couldn’t help but feel guilty…
What’s There To Feel Guilty About?
The reason behind Connolly’s guilt is a noble one. Helping his cousin is, in fact, something good, but Connolly’s awareness grew exponentially after this happened.
“We’ve had all these messages which have made us realize there are so many other people in this situation, I don’t want people to think it’s a unique thing,” he said. Which is true, this isn’t a special situation. Cases like this happen more often than one would think.
Keeping Everyone Up To Date
“There’s still a long way to go, but things are on track and she has the opportunity she deserves,” Connolly shared on social media. “When bad things happen, it’s your family that supports you… It means no one gets left behind or forgotten.”
Despite feeling guilty, Connolly knows the importance of what he’s doing. Hopefully, out of the 4,000 people who shared that message he wrote, at least of them will have the courage to step up when the time calls for it.
A Heavy Day For The Palmers
Throughout life, some days hang heavier than others. Some will be blessings and others will be huge debacles. Thankfully, these trying times only come every so often, but for the Palmer family, one of their days had arrived.
It was when they were sitting patiently and calmly in the courtroom. Awaiting a decision that would impact their lives for the better or leave them with a void. The Palmers couldn’t have been more nervous…
Getting Through The Tough Times
Tough times don’t last, but tough people do. The moment Mandi and Tyler Palmer spent waiting on the decision in the courtroom was massive. The couple had spent a year trying to prove they were worthy enough to be parents so they could keep their family together.
It felt like ages before the judge spoke up and revealed his final decision. Then, out of the blue, an interruption happened. A toddler yelled something that no one expected to hear…
He Served His Country
Rewind the story a little to 2010. Tyler Palmer had just joined the United States Army and was in the 101st Airborne Division. Unfortunately, he didn’t have much time to process the vast changes. In only three weeks’ time, he was already shipped off to Afghanistan.
This was after basic training so you can imagine that everyone, not just Tyler, would have a tough time handling such a big change so quickly.
Thankfully for Tyler Palmer, he endured the deployment to Afghanistan. He came back home to America in fine physical shape but not without having a mental toll taken out of him after experiencing his deployment.
Anyone who goes through that type of experience would be affected. The good thing is, luck was about to be on Palmer’s side sooner rather than later. It would prove to be the most appropriate type of bounce-back he needed at that point.
Tyler Meets Mandi
When 2013 came around, Cupid’s arrow decided to shoot Tyler right in the heart. Mandi entered his life, and Tyler knew right away they had something special by the way they connected almost immediately. The bad news was that Tyler was about to get sent back to the Middle East.
Even though Tyler was about to be gone for quite some time again, he felt very optimistic about his new relationship with Mandi. Mandi had some health issues herself, but the pair knew they would be just fine.
Making It Official
The couple would have to endure nearly a year without being with each other thanks to Tyler’s deployment, and it was a bit of a tough task to handle. But the difficult experience was a blessing in some ways because it put a new perspective on Tyler’s life.
“He was deployed for nine months, and one month after he got home, he proposed, and we got married a few weeks later,” Mandi later said. The deployment really showed Tyler what was important in life. He decided to quit the army and start a life with his wife.
The Palmers Decided To Start A Family
Since he returned from his deployment, things between the couple were heating up in a hurry. They knew right away that they wanted to start a family together. “We both knew we wanted our own family so greatly but didn’t know what God had planned for us,” Mandi said.
Remember how we mentioned Mandi having health issues? Well, her history of heart conditions was a big factor that made it very difficult for the pair to conceive a child…
An Uphill Battle
As you can imagine, the couple was upset with the setbacks they faced when trying to start their family. As weeks and months passed, the couple did not conceive. That kind of stress is enough to drive some marriages apart, but these two stuck through it together.
“We tried for years to get pregnant but soon came to realize that it wasn’t going to happen, nor would it be safe for my body to sustain the miracle of pregnancy due to my illness,” said Mandi. They weren’t going to give up so easily…
Adoption Enters The Picture
The Palmers were still very determined to bring a child into their so that they could begin their family. That’s when they started looking at other options that could possibly help.
In the end, they figured that adoption might be the best route for them. It may have been the best choice for their particular needs, but anyone who’s adopted before knows that it’s not always a walk in the park. Ending up with a stranger’s child that you didn’t create can come with its fair shares of ups and downs…
Becoming Foster Parents
Mandi and Tyler were all for adopting at this point and becoming foster parents. They noticed that there had been stories about the need for qualified adoptive parents where they lived. It was more than a sign.
There were also commercials and other announcements that now caught their notice. They slowly realized that there were tons of children and babies that needed a home out there. They needed only to take action so they could get closer to having a family…
A Sign From Above
All of the stories, ads, and announcements were huge signs to Tyler and Mandi. Adoption was precisely the route they were going to try at this point as they thought it was God’s plan.
Finally, they decided to enroll in the licensing program so they could begin the process of adoption. They had enough of finding the signs and not taking action on it. Becoming parents and starting a family was their primary goal now.
A Tiny Baby Boy
Many people who have been through this process might have seen this coming, but the licensing program was anything but quick and easy. Mandi and Tyler spent weeks upon weeks finishing paperwork and jumping through tons of hoops.
Soon enough, they became licensed. The same week of the licensing was also when Mandi and Tyler got a call that their baby boy was available! The child’s name was Hunter, and they couldn’t have been more excited.
Hunter Needed Parents
As we mentioned earlier, Tyler would be in for some great surprises and this one might have been the biggest. After he and Mandi received the call that Hunter needed them, they were beyond ecstatic and overwhelmed with joy.
At the time, Hunter was barely a week old. He needed a family that would love and support him in some of the most essential points of his young life. The couple was more than thrilled to be his parents, but sadly there were more obstacles in the way…
So Much To Prepare
Up next for the couple was what they later described as a “whirlwind of emotions.” For starters, the two of them went to Target and got all the baby items that would be enough in the first stages. Pampers, wipes, formula, and everything else you can think of. Then the big moment came.
“We arrived at children’s services and there was Hunter, all bundled up in a receiving blanket, and he was being held by our caseworker,” said Mandi. “He was eight days old and absolutely perfect. We fell in love with him instantly.”
Coping With The Stress
Being an adoptive family always comes with its fair share of stress. There is still an off chance that the biological parents, or perhaps other adoptive families, could appear out of nowhere and threaten the time and love you’ve put in.
And sure enough, that’s what happened to Mandi and Tyler. They ended up finding out that their family wasn’t ready to be whole yet so they had to overcome another obstacle. This was not quite what they expected at the start of this process.
They Were Not Just Going To Give Up
After Tyler and Mandi saw Hunter in person, they had made up their minds that they wanted the baby boy. Nothing was going to stop them. The course ahead wasn’t going to be the smoothest of paths, but that didn’t deter the couple.
As time passed, their passion for securing baby Hunter as their own grew more and more. Tyler and Mandi pretty much said that they were going to do whatever it took to make sure their new family included Hunter.
A Day In Court
The following 16 months for Mandi and Tyler were not the best. They had to go through an emotional journey during that time span. There were some ups, of course, but the downs weighed heavily on the young couple.
They had to attend many hearings while they were getting their paperwork finalized, just to appear in front of a judge. The judge hearing happened on December 18, 2017, one week before Christmas. What happened next was interesting…
There’s No Stopping Them
When it was time for the court date to happen, the family of three had been together for 17 months. That’s a year and five months, and even though it doesn’t seem that long, for a parent, it is an eternity.
Add in the fact that Mandi and Tyler had the idea of losing the child they’d cared about for over a year. Needless to say, this was a stressful upcoming court hearing. They focused on trying to be prepared for what was to come.
Hunter Was The Reason To Live
Hunter became Tyler and Mandi’s reason to go on. Mandi said he was “both of our reasons to fight the health battles that we have been given.” Tyler began to struggle with PTSD symptoms he developed while out in Afghanistan.
Mandi already had the heart issues. Having Hunter become their “lighthouse,” so to speak, is a fantastic thing. Now, you have a better understanding as to why they weren’t going to let him without a fight…
And… The Big Day Arrives
The big day was finally upon Tyler and Mandi. They were naturally nervous but also excited at the same time. They made sure to look their best and put on Hunter’s nicest outfit, as he was going to be the center of attention.
Both the parents were overjoyed to finally put everything behind them and start their new lives as official mom and dad to Hunter. Only time would tell if their dreams would come to fruition…
Their Loved Ones Were There For Support
On any big day in your life, having your loved ones around is always a great feeling. Knowing they are there giving you their time and support can go a long way. This was the case for Mandi and Tyler during their court hearing.
“It was very emotional, in a good way,” Mandi would later say. “We had all of our family and friends there. At the end of the court process, the judge announced Hunter’s new legal name.” This wasn’t the best part of the hearing, however…
What Did Hunter Say?
It was like a scene straight out of a movie. Once the adoption decree was read, and everything was official once, and for all, Hunter let out a yell. He took one look at Tyler and yelled, “Dad!”
Not only that, but Hunter started clapping. Once he did that, everyone there in the courtroom began to weep. Mandi recalled that it was such an emotional scene to be a part of. This was a dream moment that happened for them, but there was still more to come.
One Happy Family
That moment in the courtroom was beyond special. It cemented the permanent parenthood for Mandi and Tyler so they could focus on becoming the best parents for little Hunter. They also didn’t have to worry about other coming to take Hunter from them anymore.
Knowing all they these two had gone through, it was a victory for everyone involved, not just Mandi and Tyler. A huge burden lifted off their backs when the adoption was final.