A Life Uncommon
And in Chelle’s case, the honor could easily extend to her personal life. For not only has her work helped countless soldiers and prompted the adoptions of severely ill children, it persuaded her and Steve, who overcame a debilitating leg injury sustained in a paratrooper-training exercise, to adopt a child of their own. In 2010, the couple adopted JoJo from the poverty-stricken Liaoning Province in northeast China.
When she and Steve found JoJo, he was within two days of having his file rescinded, which means he would have been pulled from the adoption roster and put on the streets when he reached age 14. He was among the children with such severe medical issues that he was deemed unadoptable. JoJo suffers from cerebral palsy and five congenital heart defects, every one of which could have killed him. He has no fewer than 34 tumors on his body— some benign, some malignant—and he suffered a stroke at birth.
But none of that mattered to the Brewers. “When Cavan saw him in a photograph [for the first time], he said, ‘That’s my brother,’” Chelle recalls. And to this day, Cavan shows an uncommon affection for a 10-year-old toward a younger sibling, oft en kissing him on the top of the head as a parent would.
It was love at first sight for the entire family. Leafing through a scrapbook of his life, JoJo points to a picture of Chelle kissing him at the orphanage. “Why you kiss me?” he asks her.
“Because Mama loves JoJo,” she replies in his native Chinese.
The practice of speaking different languages to each of her children—JoJo, Chinese; Lorelei, German; and Cavan, Spanish—is as unique to Chelle as every other aspect of her life. At any given moment, the Susquehanna University English major might be found arranging care for a seriously ill child, helping to facilitate an international adoption, or providing assistance to a soldier wounded in combat. But, ironically, she doesn’t view her all-volunteer work as anything special. As she puts it, “I kind of fly by the seat of my pants” and help wherever the need arises.
“I, in good conscience, could never just offer my help to one group of people. If someone needs my help and I can help, they will get it,” she says.
By Victoria Kidd, assistant director of advancement communications and editor of Susquehanna Currents
Michelle "Chelle" McIntyre-Brewer
At A Glance
HOME: Jefferson, Md.
CHILDHOOD: Grew up the daughter of a U.S. Air Force veteran, raised worldwide
EDUCATION: Bachelor of Arts in English, Susquehanna University; Secondary English Teaching Certification, Pennsylvania State University; Master of Arts in Irish Heritages and Cultures, University of Ulster, United Kingdom
LANGUAGES: Working knowledge of eight; proficient in five—German, Spanish, Chinese, French and Scottish Gaelic
MARITAL STATUS:Married to U.S. Army Capt. Steven Brewer
CHILDREN: Cavan, 10; Lorelei, 6; JoJo, 4
FOUNDER AND CEO
Soldier’s List, a support and advocacy organization for U.S. military members and their families
International adoption and advocacy for medically needy children
CO-FOUNDER AND MANAGER
Socks for Vets, an organization, founded with her son, Cavan, that serves 15,000 service members in veterans’ hospitals in five states, and supplies them with socks, blankets and homemade treats
CO-FOUNDER AND MANAGER
Heart Hugs, an organization, founded with her daughter, Lorelei, that makes and distributes compression pillows to heart patients