“This baby will not survive, and you aren’t going to live through this one either,” the doctor informed Carrie Marrs. It was 1952 and she was pregnant with her third child. In her first pregnancy, she had developed toxemia which led to the death of her first born, a daughter. After a successful, uneventful birth of a son, she was now facing a heart wrenching decision. In 1952, the word abortion was not used with frequency. In 1952, you did not question the advice your doctor gave you. In 1952, Carrie Marrs, with her husband, Ken, went home and made the decision to choose life.
Dana Marrs was born in February of 1953. She was healthy and so was her mother. After completing her pregnancy on bedrest and receiving shots Dr. Cone had learned about through the Journal of the American Medical Association, Carrie Marrs celebrated the blessing of a healthy baby girl, while continuing to mourn the loss of her first daughter. Dana grew up carrying in her heart the question, why did I live when my sister did not?
Dana wanted to work with children. She knew it from the time she was little, so she studied Marketing and Business. Don’t see the connection? Just wait. In September of 1979, Dana married David Carrozza. “I married into medicine,” she quips. Together, David and Dana opened medical laboratory service facilities in Northern California. They decided to build their business as direct healthcare, an idea that was being pioneered in the 1980s, opening labs in shopping centers. In building their business, they opted to offer pregnancy tests as a loss leader to patients for $10 with the ability to get same day results. As they ran their labs, they began to notice a trend. Women were requesting a written confirmation of their pregnancy from the lab. Dana realized these written confirmations were required by abortion clinics. “I had to question writing these confirmations. I became satisfied that we were not party to the conception, nor the abortion by writing the confirmations. I knew I needed to do something, but also understood the legal limits of getting involved with the patients coming into the labs. Privacy laws placed limits,” she recalled. She made a few phone calls to adoption agencies and with their help, developed brochures depicting very pregnant women. The message was –Adoption is Another Option. “This was my silent protest against abortion” Dana made sure the tracts were in all THE LAB locations. Soon girls were contacting Dana to get help with their pregnancies.
As Dana became more involved in helping to find Christian families to offer homes to the babies of the girls who were contacting her, she began to realize the largest obstacle of adoptions. “These amazing families had welcoming homes. They had love for these babies. The only thing missing was the funds to pay for the adoption process,“she shared. The average cost of a domestic adoption is between $25,000 and $35,000 dollars. International adoptions require $35,000 to $45,000. The cost of adoption was prohibitive to many families who would otherwise provide amazing homes to children who needed one.
“I couldn’t stop thinking about how these Christian families were needed to raise these great warriors for God. “Motivated, Dana began to research developing a 501C3 Non-Profit to help with the financial obstacle for these families. However, starting the 501c was a challenge of its own. “I wanted this foundation to get up and running so badly. I could feel it, taste it; own it. The overwhelming numbers of abortions I knew were happening …we had to get this going, but it was taking forever to get the legal taking care of.” She wanted to do this well, taking no shortcuts, because she wanted this foundation to have the gravitas it would need for donors to feel good about giving their money. As she received price quotes for the legal fees to start the 501c, at $30,000 and $50,000, she was unsure of where the money was going to come from.
“One Sunday morning before church services, I became overwhelmed by this feeling. In marketing THE LAB, I became aware of all these hidden abortion clinics. I would walk into these clinics and there was this smell. There would be lines of chairs of young girls waiting. Many would be crying. And I could smell this smell. We needed to combat this now. We needed this foundation up and running now. I wanted it to be happening faster than it was, so on that Sunday, I prayed and cried out to God, ‘Help Me!’” Dana believes God was waiting for her total surrender. As she was stomping her feet, God was moving.
That morning at church, an old friend from Florida College was visiting. Upon realizing he was an attorney, she asked him to go with her family to lunch. With every intention of seeking his advice on the legal aspects of this foundation, she asked across the table, “What kind of law do you practice?” His reply, “I set up non-profit organizations.” “I was kicking David under the table. He was looking at me, like ‘Cool your Jets!’” Dana shared the idea and the backstory as well as the vision she had for helping Christian families afford adoptions. Her attorney friend stated he wanted to help her set up the non-profit. Bracing herself, she inquired, “What will it cost?” His response, “We will do it Pro-Bono.”
With the legalities provided for, the next thing to do was to get the word out. The new obstacle was to help donors feel comfortable giving to this new foundation. “It is difficult to give your money to something you know nothing about,” she explained, understanding that her marketing and business education was ready to be used in a new application. Around this same time LabCorp offered to purchase THE LAB. Without hesitation, the Carrozza’s stated, “Write the Check.” Now they had the seed money they needed to begin the mission of Sacred Selections and the time to do the work. Their focus, the babies who would be given life.
“It is one thing to have a great concept,” Dana explained, ‘but to have families who are being impacted by the money for their adoptions, well it confirms what Sacred Selections is all about.” Rod and Lisa Waterman had reached out to David and Dana after the adoption of their youngest child. Wanting to serve others who might need help through the adoption process, Lisa asked what was most needed. “I told Lisa, do a fundraiser!” The Waterman’s did just that. Twelve fundraisers and twenty-five adoptions later, the Memphis area Sacred Selections fundraiser is going strong.
“In the beginning, I thought if we could just help a little. If we could just raise $1000 per year to help families to adopt. That would be amazing. I had it in my mind if we could raise enough money to pay for 2 or 3 adoptions in my lifetime, I would be so very happy,” Dana shared. As, I was interviewing her, she had to conclude our conversation to do some emergency work on what could be the 290th adoption Sacred Selections has funded. “God has taught me, when you make a vow—watch out, the flood gates will open. God blesses us when we go His direction. There are daily calls asking, ‘Can you help me?’” God has led Sacred Selections in directions Dana never planned it would go. “I will get a call and it will be someone requesting help in something I know nothing about. I just tell them, ‘I can’t do it, but I know God can.’ So, I chase every rabbit hole until God reveals which one is the one that will lead to success for the current situation.”
The name, Sacred Selections, is a play on words referring to the 1960’s hymnal Sacred Selections for the Church, now in its 58th edition. “I was talking with a friend about a particular Sacred Selections baby and she asked what number he was so she could look up his song in the hymnal. I loved that. We now give each family their child’s song. We want to make sure that these children feel equal, removing any stigma of being adopted; celebrated. We hope these songs help in that.” My nephew, Elijah, a Sacred Selections baby, is number 257. His song: Amazing Grace. His song could not be more appropriate!
“I believe God’s people should be known as those who adopt, because we have all been adopted, “Dana suggested, “I think Christian’s need to train themselves to see that need is everywhere around them. I had someone once say to me, ‘There’s really not that many babies.’ I get 18 calls in a day, and we are not an agency. Women are in distress all around us. Christians must make themselves available. We must be willing to listen to what is happening, what is going on around us and then actively pursue how we can help. We cannot sit on stories with blind eyes. We can’t walk on the other side of the street to reference the story of the Good Samaritan, just because we think it might get dirty; that it might get sticky.”
If you are a birth mother seeking help, Dana requests you contact her directly at info@SacredSelections.org. To apply to become a Sacred Selection family, you must first have a completed home study and then fill out the application on the website: SacredSelections.org. Families can begin working on fundraising through Sacred Selections, earmarking donations for their family members. There is a great need for adoptive parents. Social Workers and Agencies love working with Sacred Selections families, because they are fully funded. There might be a call overnight of a child needing a family the next day and Sacred Selection families can be there. While Dana’s heart is for the babies, she understands that the adoption process is a volatile one. Her appreciation for birth mothers and fathers is hallmark to what Sacred Selections stands for. “We want to show the love of God to these women and families who are in crisis. We want to, within the legal perimeters, be sure the birth mothers are safe, provided for and have what they need as they continue their pregnancies. I want to honor all women who embrace life.” Sacred Selections underwrites counseling for birth mothers both while pregnant and six to nine months postpartum.
Many adoption agencies focus on birth mothers in their first trimester as a means to prevent abortion of the child. The reality of adoption is that there are birth mothers who begin the adoption process and then decide to parent their child. “I have been asked,” Dana shared, “’Isn’t it such a large amount of money wasted on taking care of a birth mother who does not then sign the adoption papers?’ I just can not see that we lost any money. That money helped a child receive life.” Sacred Selections does not interact with any birth mother one on one without an attorney or adoption agency representing the mother. Sacred Selections is a non-profit foundation, not an adoption agency.
“We are now trying to build Sacred Selections into something that will outlive us,” Dana shared. David and Dana, along with the Board of Directors, do not receive any compensation for the work with Sacred Selections. One hundred percent of the money raised in the fundraisers is used to fund adoptions. Recognizing the commitment, the hours devoted and the many hats she wears, this passion project to which she is excited to devote herself will have to evolve to survive. She realizes this evolution will require a new foundation to eventually fund a staff to take over when she is no longer able to work. “We have realized that I am doing five distinct jobs for Sacred Selections. I am so happy to be doing them, but we know for Sacred Selections to have a legacy, the people in the future doing these jobs will need to receive compensation for their work.” She continued, “We have begun to explore the idea of if we will Be able to find donors to give not only to fund adoptions, but also to help sustain the foundation.” To work toward that ends, David and Dana are moving from California to the Nashville area to be closer to their children: a daughter and son, their spouses, and her five adored grandchildren, but also to make travel easier for the supporters that have shown interest in building the legacy of Sacred Selections. She feels assured that this generation of adopted children, her Sacred Selection babies, will grow up and be in your face to be sure funds are being raised.
“I believe God has something amazing planned for every one of these kids, “Dana explained. It is certain God had something amazing planned for Dana. Through her life, He was moving her toward this purpose; through her education, which has been vital to the success of Sacred Selections; through her insights on abortion in her role within her family business, Dana Carrozza did not look away when it was hard to look. She did not give up when it would have been easy to, instead she allowed herself to be a tool for God’s purposes. Dana Carrozza is an Everyday Extraordinary Woman.