A TWO-PART STORY
It was 1971 and a very young and very scared woman was faced with a decision that most people can't even fathom and one that would lead her down a path of life that words have a challenging time even explaining. That courageous, unwed, 19 year old women was pregnant and gave her child up for adoption at birth. The story picks up again 40 years later and another decision was made that would have life changing consequences. A man, knowing of his adoption background, would pray that fate would be kind and he proactively made the decision to begin the process to search out and try to find his biological mother. To make a long story short, by the grace of God and His true divine intervention, that man would find and meet his biological mother.
A strong feeling of gratitude was that man's driving force and the sole reason he began that journey to find his biological mother. He was able to thank her for having the courage and bravery to give him up for adoption and for her child to have a chance at life that she didn't think she could provide for him at the time. This was a moment of gratitude that words alone can't explain. That biological son, who sought out and found his biological mother 40 years later, and was blessed with the unbelievable opportunity to say thanks to that brave woman who gave him his life was me. My name is Mike Stark and this is one of the reasons why I started Stark Gratitude.
My immense gratitude continues with the two people who made me who I am today, my mom and dad, Pam and Bill Stark. Pam and Bill are two amazing parents who adopted me at birth back in 1971. Although I'm sure there were times they wished that they had kept the receipt and could return me, they gave me a life I can never say thank you enough for. I owe so much to them and the word gratitude can't even begin to describe the love I have for them and for giving me such a wonderful life. The life lessons they taught me, the values that were instilled in me and how they molded my character are priceless gifts. The gratitude that I have for my mom and dad, and the life they gave me, simply can't be measured. As I have said many times before in telling this story, I for sure won the birth lottery.
Stark Gratitude is dedicated to my biological mother and to my parents Pam and Bill Stark, from a man whose heart's level of gratitude can never be measured, and I am humbled and blessed to be able to say thank you!!
A two part story of gratitude:
GRATEFUL TO SERVE
The second half of my gratitude journey has to do with honoring our great American veterans. For those of you that know me, know the story and for those that don't, here is a quick introduction. It was 2010, I thought I knew what our country stood for, what freedom was, how lucky I was...blah, blah, blah... but boy was I mistaken. My life changed forever the day I read a magazine article about a local business man who had founded an organization that took in-service combat wounded veterans on outdoor hunting adventures. Such adventures at the time included deer, turkey and bear hunting. When I finished the article, it mentioned that the founder was from just outside Orlando. I knew in my heart that I wanted to give back, donate in some way shape or form, but had not yet found the proper path. I did not serve in our military but felt that now, and in this way, might be my calling to serve. And that's when the idea hit me. I asked the founder of that organization if he would be interested in adding gator hunting to the list of adventures they hosted.
Why gator hunting you may wonder? Well again, for those that know me, know why, and for those that don't, I have been gator hunting for quite some time, I love to do it and I am very good at it. I put down the magazine and immediately called the founder and asked to meet him for lunch. And as the saying goes, the rest is history, and I am blessed he said yes. Since 2010, Wounded Warrior Outdoors bestowed upon me the great honor to annually host a Central Florida gator hunting adventure for our amazing heroes and I did so for 10 years. I now, through Stark Gratitude, host our nations heroes and take former Navy SEALs on our annual gator hunt called "Operation Gator Gig".
Being around those warriors that sacrificed so much has changed my perspective on life and gave me the true meaning of patriotism. Freedom is not free and I am honored to know many of our countries heroes that have made unbelievable sacrifices for our freedom. I did not get shot at when I went to work today, nor did I have to put on my leg to get out of bed this morning...and for those comforts and blessings, is why I have unmeasurable gratitude for our great warriors.
This sense of gratitude towards the men and women who protect and fight for our freedoms and our way of life has had an everlasting effect on me and thus another part of the story behind Stark Gratitude.