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Abandoned in college laundry room, “Baby Jane Doe” graduates 32 years later from same school

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Editor’s note. My family and I will be on vacation through September 6. I will occasionally add new items but for the most part we will repost “the best of the best” — the stories our readers have told us they especially liked over the last five months. This first ran May 31.

A friend forwarded a story from Minnesota Public Radio, the first sentence of which perfectly captured the heart of the story: “Here’s your daily dose of sweetness.”

32 years ago, a student at San Francisco State University, who happened to be “taking a course in newborn care,” found a baby in a box in the laundry room.

“Her body temperature had dropped precipitously and her skin had turned blue,” wrote Bob Collins. “She’s been putting up a fight ever since.”

That fight culminated for Jill Sobol when she graduated last Friday from the same university at which her mother had abandoned her in 1984!

“I know I’m a capable person, but I had difficulties in high school,” Sobol, now 31, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “I had dyslexia, and some ADD (attention deficit disorder) and learning disabilities. I’ve gone to a lot of tutors, and people who taught me learning techniques.”

Sobol’s story of pluck, persistence, and loving adoptive parents will make anyone’s day. Collins writes

Success in school eluded Jillian, but not because she wasn’t bright. When she read, letters appeared flipped around, evidence of a learning disability. She suffered from migraines. At 12, depression settled in. Her adoptive father, who had graduated from Yale, and mother, a UC Berkeley grad, loved education and didn’t hesitate to let her try a new school if the old one wasn’t working.

In all, Jillian attended four high schools, the last a boarding school in Costa Rica for underachieving students.

“Puberty was tough,” Sobol said, sitting for an interview across the San Francisco State campus from the tennis courts now on the site where she was born. “I was definitely different from my parents. They were more reserved. Professionals. I was more rambunctious.”

Sobol knew she was adopted from her earliest years. But it was not until she turned 16 that her mother told tell her about the circumstances surrounding Sobol’s birth, Collins wrote,

“and how she [her birth mother] must have been very young and scared,” Jillian Sobol said. “I’m not certain of her actual words. It’s more the feelings of feeling special and feeling loved.”

Then came the shock: “That couldn’t be me!” She and her father visited the library and read the old newspaper articles together. “There was an outpouring of love from the people who found me, and the people at the hospital. And this army of people trying to help me and find (the parents). I do feel so grateful for all of that — and how it led me to my amazing parents and family.”

If her story weren’t already amazing enough, consider this. Sobol had written a letter years before to her birth mother but got no reply. She also tried Facebook. “The woman friended, then unfriended, Sobol on Facebook.”

Having learned last month that some Facebook messages can be hidden from view, she looked to see if she had any.

She found one. It had been sitting, unseen, for nearly two years.

“I have something to tell you,” her biological mother had written. “I’m very proud of you. And thank you for being you.”

The stunning message capped off the years Sobol had spent considering her mother’s predicament.

“That’s a horrible spot to be in for a woman, where the only choice she had was to abandon her child in a box,” Sobol said. “I’ve faced it by not letting it dictate my life. The love and support I’ve been raised with has allowed me to embrace it and not run from it or be scared by it.”

Sobol is still considering her response. “This summer, I hope to think about it,” she said.

And then this utterly amazing conclusion:

Joining her at [last Friday’s] commencement was Esther Raiger, 53, the student who found a baby in a box in a laundry room. Her biological father was there, too.

Sobol is starting work at an events company in San Francisco.

“I take a lot of pride in San Francisco,” she said of the city that once helped her. Now, “I think they need my help.”

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Daniel Miller is responsible for nearly all of National Right to Life News' political writing.

With the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency, Daniel Miller developed a deep obsession with U.S. politics that has never let go of the political scientist. Whether it's the election of Joe Biden, the midterm elections in Congress, the abortion rights debate in the Supreme Court or the mudslinging in the primaries - Daniel Miller is happy to stay up late for you.

Daniel was born and raised in New York. After living in China, working for a news agency and another stint at a major news network, he now lives in Arizona with his two daughters.

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