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'Superhero' family sharpens focus on special needs adoptions

Alex Hart, 10, talks with new brother, Anthony Gabriel Hart, 5, before Anthony’s adoption finalization at the Hillsborough County courthouse. Mom Donna Hart said, “He brings out this side in Tanner and Alex, this tenderness, this kindness.”
Alex Hart, 10, talks with new brother, Anthony Gabriel Hart, 5, before Anthony’s adoption finalization at the Hillsborough County courthouse. Mom Donna Hart said, “He brings out this side in Tanner and Alex, this tenderness, this kindness.”
Published May 25, 2017

TAMPA

Batman, Superman and Spider-Man rose from orphan beginnings to become superheroes known for their feats of strength and heroic deeds.

That's why brothers Alex and Tanner Hart wore Spider-Man and Batman bow ties at Edgecomb Courthouse on Monday (May 22). Anthony Hart, their soon-to-be adopted brother, completed the trio with a Superman bow tie.

And then the court legally brought them together, giving Alex, 10, and Tanner, 7, a new baby brother, and giving Anthony a forever family with mom Donna and dad Greg.

Anthony, a child with cerebral palsy, had spent the majority of his life in foster care. In March of 2016, Children's Board Heart Gallery of Tampa Bay photographer Michael Shuhmann took photos of Anthony to be displayed online and throughout Hillsborough County.

The Children's Board Heart Gallery of Tampa Bay works to find a home for the children in foster care that are the hardest to place, which includes children with special needs. Because of the many challenges and long term needs, the Harts' adopting Anthony was the best case scenario, according to Jesse Miller, the executive director of the Children's Board Heart Gallery of Tampa Bay.

"It amazing to see how much more [a child] can achieve after being adopted," Miller said. "The normalcy that Anthony will have is invaluable."

Donna Hart, a special education teacher at Bloomingdale High School, found Anthony's photo on the online gallery and immediately texted Greg. The couple, looking to adopt a child with special needs, fell in love with Anthony at first sight.

"We were immediately drawn to his smile," Greg said. "Anthony has a magnetic personality."

The couple talked and prayed together and with their sons Alex and Tanner. In February, they welcomed Anthony to their home. The Monday proceedings made it official.

Anthony's bubbly personality lights up a room, according to Greg. Not only has the family changed Anthony's life, but Anthony has changed the lives of the Harts' and made the family stronger, he said.

"Our family feels whole," Greg said. "We always felt we were meant for something more and God had a bigger plan."

After the decision, the Children's Board Heart Gallery of Tampa Bay presented the family with several portraits of Anthony. After leaving the courthouse, the family went for their first family photo shoot with their newest superhero.

Contact Katelyn Massarelli at kmassarelli@tampabay.com.

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