Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

It Takes This Village: How the Midtown community rallied around one family’s adoption.

As the “Friends” gang is to Central Perk and the “Seinfeld” group is to Monk’s Café, so are Kenny and Beth Johns to Ted’s Bar & Grill in Midtown Harrisburg.

On a typical weekend, you can find them there chatting with friends over a meal and a drink. The managers and cooks have become friends, and the Johnses have become a pair of regulars.

While the couple is well known at Ted’s, their 2-year-old son Julien is the one who steals the show. Perched on the to-go counter, the toddler calls out for “more fries” and takes the role of the smallest chef in the kitchen. His signature meal (which any good regular has) is chicken tenders and fries.

“Julien is intelligent, bright and warms the atmosphere when he comes in,” said Jesse Hamilton, managing partner of Ted’s.

It was only a couple of years ago that Kenny and Beth were at Ted’s for a breakfast fundraiser, surrounded by friends supporting their mission of adoption, a journey that would eventually bring them Julien.


New Dreams

In 2013, the Johnses moved to Midtown Harrisburg, and they quickly knew it was their permanent home, where they would raise their family. After a few years, they were ready for kids, but endured more than two years of miscarriages, surgeries and specialists, which left them doubting whether they would ever be parents.

Throughout the couple’s long struggle, family and friends were always there, but they could do little besides offer kind words and encouragement.

In 2017, Beth finally told people that, yes, they needed help. They were going to adopt—and they needed their community to support them.

The couple created a GoFundMe page to aid with the high cost of adopting. Their friends held a concert and yard sale to help. Not only did their circle of Midtown friends get involved, but even strangers from the large neighborhood donated. The family they wanted was finally coming into focus.

Near the end of the year, they got the call. Their son was born, and they dropped everything to go meet him.


City Boy

Raising their son in Midtown embedded the Johns family into their community even more than before.

“We’ve engaged with this community in such a new and different way,” Beth said. “We’ve gotten to know our neighbors because they know him.”

After playing in what Julien deems “my park” on Sayford Street, the family often heads to Midtown Scholar Bookstore for his apple juice and the Broad Street Market for a soft pretzel.

“He’s super-social,” Beth said. “He has friends all around town.”

Soon enough, Julien will be able to order off a kid’s menu at Ted’s, an addition that Hamilton is creating, in part, due to inspiration from the Johns family.

“The Johnses are able to see Harrisburg as a great place to raise a family in,” Hamilton said. “They look at a philosophy of digging their roots in, and I don’t think many people look at their time in Harrisburg as that. I was certain I needed to take a position to welcome families.”


Round Two

Not long ago, Kenny and Julien took a trip around town, stopping for a selfie with the owners, managers and employees of all their favorite Midtown spots. They say a picture is worth a thousand words right? Well, in this case, it’s worth a lot more.

These snapshots would serve as evidence of their role in the community for their parent profile book. They’re adopting again.

“We’ve always known that we wanted more than one,” Kenny said. “We felt like it was the right time.”

This time, the Johnses are going all in to involve Midtown on their journey of making their family of three a family of four.

They sold T-shirts and mugs, held an ultimate Frisbee competition, hosted a barbecue and sent out more letters than they could count. Businesses like Yellow Bird Café, Evanilla, Dalicia Bakery, Keystone Restaurant and, of course, Ted’s, have all donated to the family.

“It takes a village to raise a child,” has become the couple’s motto.

“Throughout our whole story, our village has been there,” Beth said.

To follow the Johns family’s story, visit their Facebook page: “Kenny and Beth Adopt.”

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