Adoption community mourns musician's daughter

May 22, 2008 7:54:02 PM PDT
Christian singer-songwriter Steven Curtis Chapman may be well known for his music, but many others recognize him as an advocate who has helped hundreds of couples adopt orphans from other countries. A number of adoption groups offered their prayers and sympathy to Chapman and his family Thursday, a day after his 5-year-old daughter was accidentally struck and killed by a car driven by her brother. Maria was the youngest of three daughters Chapman and his wife, Mary Beth, adopted from China.

"The adoption community is devastated for the family," said Brenda Barker, director of the Children's Hope International's office in Tennessee. "They've given money to me personally for me to adopt two children ... thousands of families have benefited from their generosity and commitment."

The little girl was hit Wednesday by an SUV driven by her 17-year-old brother, Will Franklin Chapman, in the driveway of their home in Franklin, Tenn., according to Tennessee Department of Safety spokesman Mike Browning.

"We're investigating and will turn it over to the D.A., but every appearance is that it was a terrible accident," Browning said.

Chapman is one of the most popular contemporary gospel singers, with 16 studio albums, five Grammies and 54 Dove Awards from the Gospel Music Association.

After the Chapmans adopted their daughter, Shaohannah, they formed The Shaohannah's Hope Ministry in 2003 to aid other couples. The organization has awarded grants averaging about $3,000 to more than 1,600 families.

During his concerts, Chapman often collects spare change from the audience and donates it to families trying to adopt. He and his wife also wrote a children's book, "Shaoey and Dot: Bug Meets Bundle."

"I read it a lot to my little girl," said Rebecca Smeltzer, president of the group Families with Children from China of Middle Tennessee, who has a 6-year-old daughter from China. "Being in the adoption community, everybody I know has it. It helps to explain coming home and finding the forever family."

Smeltzer said there was "extreme sympathy" for the Chapmans among the 150 or so families in her organization.

A memorial service is set for Saturday. The Chapman family released a statement Thursday requesting donations to Shaohannah's Hope Ministry instead of flowers.

Chapman's manager, Jim Houser, said the family celebrated the engagement of their oldest daughter, Emily Chapman, just hours before the accident and were hours away from their son Caleb Chapman's graduation party.

"Now, they are preparing to bury a child who blew out five candles on a birthday cake less than 10 days ago," Houser said. "And yet we trust in a God who was not surprised by this, and because of Jesus I am certain through faith in him we will see Maria again."

Shaohannah's Hope Ministry: