By June Naylor
Ric Bonnell: From Hood County to Haiti, the love and outreach continue
The photograph of Ric Bonnell’s loving gaze at then 19-month-old daughter Laney remains one of our favorites. Ric and Wendy, his wife, were missionary volunteers in Haiti before the devastating 2010 earthquake, with a deep familiarity with a local orphanage. They already had begun adoption proceedings for the Haitian toddler, and Ric, then an ER doctor at Cook Children’s Medical Center, made his way back there to help victims with crushed limbs and no medical care. The Bonnells, who already had three biological children, later discovered that Laney had four siblings — two sisters and two brothers. “There was so much chaos; everything in government was shut down, including the adoption branch and family courts. It took us three years to finally complete the adoptions. We spent holidays, school breaks and the final four months there, so we got to become a family before coming home to Texas,” Ric recalls.
The past decade has been a busy one: Their family of five grew to 10, and the husband-wife physician team saw the tiny volunteer medical clinic they founded in Granbury in 2009 grow at an equally impressive pace.
They also continue to help Haiti, visiting three to four times each year and focusing on providing resources for Haitian health care providers. After their oldest adopted child, Mackenson, became sick with type 1 diabetes, they expanded services.
“We started the clinic there for treating all diseases affecting children, including diabetes, epilepsy, heart disease and more, and it’s staffed solely by Haitians,” says Ric.
Back home on their ranch in Hood County, Ric says the community of Tolar, where all the kids attend or attended public school, embraced the new additions. The family’s experiences in Haiti so influenced their oldest biological daughter, Elizabeth, that she’s studying premed with an emphasis in global health at Duke University. She’s teaching at an inner-city elementary school in Dallas next year through AmeriCorps, a national service program, before heading to medical school. Mackenson plays soccer at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor and is pursuing a career in physical therapy.
Moving to Haiti during the adoption process forced Ric to give up his job at Cook. Today, he divides his time between teaching premed at TCU, where he’ll be a professor at the soon-to-open medical school, volunteering at Ruth’s Place, training local health care providers in Haiti and being a dad.
Wendy, a pediatrician, works full time at Ruth’s Place, the donation-supported medical clinic for indigent locals in Hood County. “We were the first doctors when we started this in 2009 in a single-wide trailer home. Now it’s a 3,000-square-foot office building with multiple specialties, including family practice, internal medicine, ophthalmology, OB-GYN, dental care and mental health services,” Ric says.
Fittingly, its 10th anniversary coincided with special recognition in March by the North Texas Community Foundation. President Rose Bradshaw heralded the couple, saying, “Together, Ric and Wendy are extending a helping hand to their neighbors by doing the work they love most.”