by Jared Bray, ABS-CBN News
WEST JORDAN, Utah — Three-year-old Maria Stewart doesn’t have limbs, but she does posses a radiant personality.
“She’s just so full of light and love, and everyone who meets her can feel it,” said her mom, Adrianne.
Maria’s inspiring story starts in the Philippines, where she was born without arms and legs — a condition called congenital limb difference.
At 6 months old, her picture caught the attention of couple Jason and Adrianne Stewart of West Jordan, Utah.
“We just fell in love with her beautiful smile, and we just knew that we needed to make her a part of our family,” said Adrianne.
The couple then took the requisite steps to adopt her, and in October 2015, they flew to the Philippines to meet Maria and bring her back to Utah.
They said it’s a decision that’s forever changed their family’s lives for the better.
“She’s taught us a lot about seeing things for what they are, not seeing things for what they aren’t,” said her dad, Jason.
Maria loves to challenge herself, and strives to learn and develop new skills each day — such as descending stairs, coloring with a custom mouthpiece and eating independently.
She also has quite the routine, attending preschool twice a week, and physical, speech and occupational therapy once a month.
“We put limits on her abilities, and then she just turns around and does completely what we think she wasn’t capable of,” said Adrianne.
For Maria’s three siblings, Breanna, Eva and Joshua, she’s an inspiration.
“She’s really cute, and her smile is beautiful and lights up the room,” Breanna said. “It can make anyone happy really.”
“I do a lot of things with her, like make her happy, play with her, watch movies with her,” Eva said. “She’s really fun to be around.”
“I love her,” Joshua said. “’Cause she’s fun.”
Maria is the second child the Stewarts have adopted from the Philippines — the same country where Jason served a two-year church mission.
While there, he learned about the Philippine culture and how to speak Tagalog.
“Knowing the culture and language, I just fell in love with the people over there,” he said.
He and Adrianne are now in the process of adding another child from the Philippines to their family.
They hope their story inspires others.
“They are your own kids, and they all want that love that a [only] family can give,” Jason said. “That’s what we really hope to advocate, or promote through all this. They’re out there wanting the same thing any kid would want.”
“It’s our hopes in sharing [Maria’s] story that there will be more families that are inspired to adopt a child,” Adrianne said. “Through the Philippines, through the U.S., foster care, whatever. Just open their hearts and homes to children in need.”