The Oklahoma Heart Gallery was honored by the Department of Human Services and the Oklahoma Senate this month for its work finding permanent families for children available for adoption.
The organization, which creates portraits and videos of children available for adoption, was feted with a Community Partner Award from DHS and a Citation for Outstanding Service from the Senate, according to a news release.
The Oklahoma Heart Gallery places those photos and videos on its website and on gallery-style displays throughout the state of Oklahoma.
Part of the organization’s focus is on helping children who are disabled or older find permanent homes. Children who turn 18 without a permanent family often face additional challenges in early adulthood, according to the gallery.
The first Heart Gallery opened in Sante Fe, New Mexico, in 2001, with the simple idea of exhibiting portraits of children who were waiting to be adopted.
Gay Larson, an amateur photographer in Tulsa, in 2003 launched a similar program in Oklahoma, with photographers volunteering to take professional-quality portraits of children waiting to be adopted out of state custody with the Department of Human Services.
But it wasn’t until 2015 that the Oklahoma Heart Gallery became an official nonprofit group and a full-time endeavor for Larson.
“It really does make a difference to raise awareness of the need for adoptive parents,” Larson told the Tulsa World in a previous interview. “These children need forever homes.”