HAYS — The Stanton family has much to be thankful for on this COVID-19 Thanksgiving.


The month of November includes birthdays for two family members. Andy Stanton is seven years removed from open heart surgery. His son, Gabe, just received new sleeves for his prosthetic arm through the Shriners. Andy’s dad, who has health issues, also has recently moved to Hays and is living next door. And, November is National Adoption Month, which has special meaning for the family, with mom Dana adopted and two of the couple’s three children also adopted.


"There’s a lot to be grateful for in the midst of trying times," Andy Stanton said.


Gabe, 15, is a freshman at Thomas More Prep-Marian. Gracie Jo, 16, is a junior at TMP. Jackson, 20, is working while taking a semester off from college. Gracie Jo joined the family in 2005 and Gabe in 2008, coming from two different regions of China.


"Like lots of families, we chose to enlarge our family through adoption," Dana Stanton said. "After we had Jackson, we decided we would look into adoption."


Gabe has known nothing but living without his left hand, having successfully adapted to everyday life.


"Throughout his life — swimming, biking, schoolwork, typing on the computer — he’s always found a way to make it work," Dana said.


Gabe is low key about it, saying simply, "It just seems fine."


What was not fine for Gabe was trying to lift weights for sports while in junior high. Gabe uses his prosthetic arm just for weight lifting, but both silicon sleeves — which attach the prosthetic to the arm — eventually wore out due to repeated use. They cost about $1,000 to replace, and that’s where Shriners Hospitals for Children helped out. The Stantons traveled to St. Louis earlier this month and Gabe received two new, improved sleeves for his prosthetic.


"This is the first time he found something he needed a little help with," Dana said. "He loved lifting weights. One side was getting very muscular, and the left side, not so much."


The Fort Hays Shrine Club also provided assistance, paying for the Stantons’ travel expenses to St. Louis.


"For us, we’re very thankful for our local Shriners, and then for the Shriners organization," Andy said. "The hospital was amazing."


Bob Keener, treasurer for the local Shrine club, said helping people is their mission.


"It’s an overwhelming positive feeling," Keener said, adding the organization is still giving aid even during the pandemic. "We’re still able to provide and do things for others. Moments like Andy and his son, I’m just glad there are opportunities out there we can be part of."