Dorinda and VN Babies

Dorinda Cavanaugh

Dorinda’s inspirational life and spirit continues to permeate and inspire TDH’s work to provide a needy child with a permanent nurturing family while breaking down barriers in order to improve the lives of countless children around the world and their future  

In Memory of Dorinda

In September 2015 we lost an exceptional woman, Dorinda Cavanaugh. Dorinda and husband Brendan established TDH in Canada, originally in Quebec, more than 30 years ago.

In the coming weeks we’ll post photos and stories about her amazing work in finding families for orphaned children, and making dreams come true for families wanting children. If you have something to share, please email Board President Marlene Alt.

If you’d like to make a donation in Dorinda’s memory,
please make cheques payable to TDH Canada and send them to

TDH Ontario
36 Home Avenue, PO Box 963 ,
Vankleek Hill, ON
K0B 1R0.

Eulogy for Dorinda by Rosie Cavanaugh, her youngest child

(Le texte en français suit le texte anglais)
Many of you know my mother as the mother of Robin, Marisa, Emily, Nick or me, others knew her simply as Dorinda, the Director of TDH, but behind-the-scenes, my mother was so much more. To describe my mother in 4 words, although the list is endless, she was compassionate, resilient, caring & loving.


When I first thought of compassion, I actually wasn’t sure if I was using the word right. It was a word that I would hear and use, but not really know what it meant. So I looked it up to make sure that it was appropriate for this context. And in all the definitions I read, they all gathered around the idea that compassion is “a sympathetic response to the suffering of others, that motivates a desire to help, and alleviate that suffering.” What stayed with me the most was the part about alleviating the suffering because that what my mother dedicated her whole life doing. She alleviated the pain of a child without a family and a family without a child.

I’d actually like to tell you a short story, not many of you know about my mom. It is actually the moment when my dad first met my mom. He was on his way home from the university in Washington, in the middle of the night, when he spotted my mom, walking back down an extremely dark alley. It was known to be a lower class neighborhood, and there my mom was; this white, skinny, brown haired youthful woman, walking back in this dark alley with books in her hand. My dad said to her “What the heck are you doing here at this hour of the night?” It turned out my mom had simply finished her usual tutoring that she did for this little 12-year-old black girl, at night. Even as a young adult, before TDH, before her family, my mom had a compassionate heart.


Dorindas-funeral-serviceBut with her compassionate heart, came a certain resilience like no other. In the adoption world, she learnt earlier on the importance of resilience, what it meant to not bend and break to the uncertainties and difficulties of adoption. In the last few years, as many of you know, my mom began working more with special needs children, particularly in Vietnam. Outcasts of society as orphans as it is, these poor children with special needs carried with them yet another burden, that of their disability. In working and in learning from these children, Mom developed a motto and a slogan that I feel is worth sharing with you all. She said: “everyone hopes for a ‘perfect’ child, but is the child with HIV, deformities, or limited mobility any less perfect?”

As adoption began to push more for children with special needs, my mom worked all that more harder at finding loving homes for these poor children. There were a lot of trials and obstacles she faced, that not many people saw. Sometimes it was rejections upon rejections from parents or problems with the documents before a child could finally be with the right parents. My mother never gave up. She was resilient in the fight, and made sure with all her might that a family who would fall in love with the child’s imperfections, big or small. If that meant, taking the “back roads”, traveling the distance across oceans and countries, making those phone calls, and working all the way into the long hours of the night (possibly until 3-4 in the morning,) she would do it.

As a family, we would tell her to shut it off and come to bed, but my mom knew what needed to be done, and the stubborn woman she was, allowed her to produce the miracles she did, as a result. Her resilience is one of her characteristics I admire most. It’s all one of the characteristics that have allowed more than 2000 children to go from orphan to a loved child. No one fought the way Mom did. I don’t even think many would have gone all those extra miles the way she did, especially with such an open and benevolent heart. But that made Dorinda, Dorinda. That was our mother every single day of the year. She was resilient and would not rest until she did everything in her power to make every adoptive child and parents’ dream come true.

Love & Care

The strength she had that allowed her to do all this work, day in and day out was in big part because of her love for God and the love she had for everyone around her. I think many of us could agree that my mother was more of a doer than a talker. So, although she did not always express her love verbally, it was through her actions and her way of caring for others that spoke for her. You know the saying “actions speak louder than words”? This is a perfect quote to describe my mom’s ways of expression. And whether you felt her love, directly or indirectly, through her personally or through her children, her family and her friends; it was and is always present.

My mom loved each and every person that came into her life, child, teen, or adult. She even took some of the children from Vietnam into her own home for a while, and no matter their length of stay, she was always a mother figure to them. She treated them no different than her own, nurturing them with the same love and care she had her 5 children.

Without a doubt, my mother was one of kind, a Mother Theresa type as many have pointed out to me. Her humility and kindness, and her humanitarian need and desire to dedicate her life in advocating an child’s right to life is the reason why we are all gathered here today. I think I can say that anyone can match a child to a paper criterion that is filled out at the beginning of an adoption. But no one could match a child to a family, so perfectly the way my mother did. It was a gift we would always say, a gift she had with her throughout her 40 plus years in adoption.

Many of you have received the famous call from my mom saying “Mr. and Mrs., I have a child for you. ” As an adoptee myself, it was always music to my ears and rays of sun to my heart to hear replies like “you couldn’t have found a more perfect child for me.” I honestly couldn’t be more proud to be adopted, and to be adopted by someone as wonderful as my mother is a true gift from God. To quote my mom one last time: “Every parent dreams of seeing their child’s first smile, first step, hearing their first word. But thousands of children wait for the hand that will guide them through the pains of growing up, the heart that will listen as they tell of their fears and loneliness.” Because of my mom, I am here 20 years later, writing this eulogy. Because of my mom, thousands of children get to live out a life that would not have been possible without her.

The next few years will be some of the most challenging times, I know not only for my family and I, but for others as well. Her imprint has left an important mark on all of us, her legacy is one that is remarkable and unique to her alone, but her mission is very clear and simple. “Be there for others, be there for each other, help those who are less fortunate, and do it with open arms and an open heart.” So, as we go begin to pick up the broken pieces and start living out our lives again, let us always keep Dorinda Ann Carosella close to our hearts and her message to our soul. To quote for the last time one of my favorite childhood authors, Dr. Seuss, in regards to my mother’s life “Do not cry because it’s over, but smile because it happened.”

Eulogy for Dorinda by her friend and Board member, Wendy de Vries.

Good morning, my name is Wendy de Vries and I am here to honour my very good friend Dorinda. A friend who helped my husband and I achieve our hearts desire, our hearts desire to adopt children. With Dorinda’s guidance we now have both a daughter and a son and they have grown into incredible adults and are the joy of our lives. How do you adequately thank someone for that? We have been trying for 40 years and can only hope that our ongoing friendship was enough to show her how truly grateful we are.

Several thousand other families have reason to be thankful for Dorinda’s dedication and ongoing conviction that all children deserve a home and parents to love them, wherever they come from. She worked continually to win over government officials and orphanages in multiple countries with her quiet but deceptive persuasion and she never let up, for 40 years she continued when others fell by the wayside. During that time she mentored many others and they must now go on without her. It will be hard, but she will be with you, urging you to keep going and always think of the children.
The children were always at the forefront of Dorinda’s mind and I witnessed that first hand in 1994 when I spent almost a month with her in Hanoi. My children were already teenagers and I was there to help Dorinda bring back several babies for families in Montreal. We spent a lot of time running around between government offices and we visited several orphanages and it was a joy to see the way Dorinda was greeted at each one. It was like travelling with a rock star because she was mobbed by the children and nurses everywhere. She never seemed to tire although the schedule was grueling and we were up nights with the babies.

During that time we had a lot of opportunity for talking and sharing stories about our families and I came to appreciate her as a travel companion. Neither of us got very fussed about the delays that were inevitable or the discomfort that was normal but one day Dorinda was particularly excited to tell me that we would be travelling by boat for part of our trip to Halong Bay. It was actually a ferry boat across a river but Dorinda, knowing that I love boats thought it would be a treat for me. Which it was because we shared the ride with a very large water buffalo, and as I patted his head and enthused about the view, Dorinda, in her very quiet way said, you may want to move, you are standing in a puddle of Buffalo pee.
Not a classic story but perhaps a slightly different Dorinda to the one that you know and a good segway to the next story I would like to tell you that is about a very different kind of boat.

*Down by the seashore, tied up to the wharf, a beautiful sailing vessel waited in the sunshine. Its brass gleamed, its decks shone and its sails stood ready. Standing on the deck was a woman waiting to set off on her journey. Her long hair was blowing in the wind and she looked towards the shore where a large group of her family and friends were gathered to wave goodbye. Finally, the ship’s crew cast off the lines, hoisted the sails and the ship slipped quietly out of the harbour. The people on the shore waved and shouted, goodbye, we will miss you! They watched until the ship was a tiny speck on the horizon and just as it disappeared from their view someone shouted, ‘she has gone’. But, at exactly the same moment, the ship came into view on the other side and a loud cry was heard from the distant shore as the crowd that waited for her there shouted joyously – here she comes – here she comes at last. Bon Voyage Dorinda, we will miss your shining light forever.

*My variation on a poem entitled, “What is Death” by Charles Henry Brent, Bishop of the Phillippines, born in Canada in 1862 and educated at Trinity College, University of Toronto