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For A Good Cause:

Finding babies a loving home

‘Project Cuddle’ seeks to provide care for unwanted babies or babies for parents who are unable to conceive.

May 14, 2008|By Sue Thoensen

The little girl held a spittoon for her father, a Newport Beach dentist, so he could pull the rotted teeth of orphans in Mexico. It was the first time she realized some children didn’t have parents like she did.

She thought, “I don’t want them to be without moms and dads.”

She’d be riding in the car, see cardboard boxes by the side of the road and think, “There could be a baby inside there.”

Pretty heady stuff for an 8-year-old, but Debbie Magnusen said those experiences inspired her to care for abandoned babies.

Today, her “Project Cuddle” has saved more than 632 babies that might otherwise have been left in a Dumpster, park or cardboard box.

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What surprised Magnusen was that she received most of the organization’s hotline calls from pregnant women before they delivered — not after.

Magnusen said she hoped women would call before they did something tragic, and she expected to be running out at all hours of the night to rescue abandoned babies.

“Honestly, I thought I’d get the call saying here’s the baby, go pick it up,” Magnusen said.

Instead, “Project Cuddle” received calls from women who wanted help, some so they could keep their babies, others who needed help so they could turn them over to loving families wanting to adopt them.

The first call the hotline received came the day after it was launched.

“A woman had been raped. She told me she hated her unborn baby and I’d better figure something out or she’d leave it in the park when it was born,” Magnusen said.

Because the woman was four days from delivery, Magnusen quickly arranged for a doctor, hospital room, an attorney, a counselor and found an adoptive family. She was also by the woman’s side in the delivery room, something Magnusen has done many times since.

“After that delivery, the birth mom said for the first time she’d done something she was proud of,” Magnusen said.

Elizabeth and Doug McKibben had been trying for years to conceive a child when Elizabeth heard about “Project Cuddle” through a friend. Private adoption agencies were very expensive, and the wait time was almost five years. The McKibbens gave their number to Magnusen and were surprised when they heard back within two weeks.

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