HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) – Clinging to old videos, cherished photos, and special memories after unspeakable tragedy.
Recently in Branford, 22-year-old Robert Dudchik and his brother, 19-year-old Anthony, were killed in a one-car accident.
Their father, Tom, is a beloved member of the News 8 family.
“They were inseparable,” says Chris Scott, a friend and Executive Director of Sun Scholars Inc. in Hartford. “I kind of just started bawling and then I said, ‘No, there’s no way.'”
The Dudchiks wish to honor their sons by raising awareness about adoption.
“I have so much admiration for Tom and Nora right now,” continues Scott.
The biological brothers were adopted out of the state’s Department of Children and Families 15 years ago.
“He was beaming with pride the last time he and I spoke, helping the boys find their way,” says Commissioner Vannessa Dorantes, a frequent guest on Tom’s show, Capitol Report. “That tragedy hit us hard we know this has been a long journey for the Dudchiks and the boys and they found stability there.”
“He had a really big grin, the biggest smile you could imagine,” says Scott who was Rob’s mentor at Sun Scholars, starting in 2017. “He was one of my first students, we’re not supposed to have favorites but he was definitely a favorite.”
The non-profit – which stands for “Succeed – Uplift and Nurture” – partners with DCF to guide these young adults.
“We’re here to support the adoptive and foster care community through college, vocational school, trade school, career,” says Scott.
The goal? To change a staggering statistic.
According to the National Youth in Transition Database, only 3% of foster and adopted youth will graduate from college.
“We want to intervene at the career level, the academic level, and change the odds,” says Scott.
The group uses relationships to combat instability and trauma.
Robert found his way through travel and recently journeyed cross country – stopping at National Parks along the way.
“He was one of the freest people you’d ever meet,” says Scott. “We were sending pictures back and forth and he reminded me so much of myself and I said, ‘You’ve got to go see the world.'”
And that’s exactly what he was planning to do in his new job as a flight attendant for Avelo Airlines.
“When he got that job, we were off the wall happy,” says Scott.
That’s why Sun Scholars has set up the Robert and Anthony Dudchik Memorial Fund, creating travel opportunities for its students.
“He loved his brother,” says Scott. “Rob was always incredibly passionate and grateful and expressed gratitude about the importance that he and Anthony were adopted together.”
Rob even shared a moving, personal testimony at the State Capitol about the importance of sibling adoptions and reducing sibling separation.
“I remember very clearly carrying this little kid I had known since the day he was born. I made his bottles,” he said, with poise and emotion, as we tried to make a change. “Can we please have it so that if brothers and sisters stay together, it’s not because they’re lucky.”
“Adoptive parents are special folks, they open their hearts and their homes,” says Dorantes.
Right now, there are about 2730 kids in the state’s foster care. Many of those children will be up for adoption if reunification with their biological family or placement with a relative isn’t possible.
“There are families out there that recognize they may have room in their heart or home to foster a child,” says Dorantes.
And now the Dudchiks are trying to cope with almost unbearable pain…by helping others.
“Kids are going to get adopted because of this, right? That means other people will have loving families and will take on the challenge because that’s what it is sometimes, but it’s also the love,” says Scott.
That profound love will always remain.
As the obituaries read, “Take flight, Robert!”…”Rock the heavens, Anthony!”
You will live in our hearts….always.
“Someone as special as Robert and Anthony doesn’t leave this world without shaking it,” says Scott.
If you’re interested in becoming a foster or adoptive parent, call 1-888-KID-HERO.
Click here to learn more about the Robert and Anthony Dudchik Memorial Fund.