At Home With Craig & Terri Gainor

Posted on October 1, 2019

When you mention foster children, Craig Gainor cannot hide his emotions. He chokes up thinking about his late grandfather, Lawrence, one of 11 children orphaned when their mother died. Their father, who could not keep the family together, passed away two years later. Lawrence went to live in an orphanage, an experience so difficult that he forged his identification papers and joined the service as a teenager. He served in the foxholes of France in World War I, and was later among the 33 to survive the sinking of the USS Squalus submarine during test dives off the coast of New Hampshire in 1939. (Twenty-six crewmembers died.)

His grandfather’s ordeal led Gainor and wife Terri to become deeply involved with Walden Family Services, a pioneer in specialized foster care and adoption services. Walden provides programs for foster youth and families, and helps to place foster children, many with special needs, in forever homes. “Every child needs a good home,” says Craig. “A fighting chance in this tough world.”

Craig and Terri Gainor at home in Poway

On October 11, Walden will honor the Gainors with its “Fostering Hearts Legacy Award” for their longtime support at its annual Wine D’Vine fundraiser at the Hyatt Regency La Jolla at Aventine. The evening features a three-course dinner, live auction, and an intimate concert by the Grammy Award-winning rock group Train. Maryanne and Harley Sefton once again are concert presenters. Event chairs are Lisa and Raul Albanez and Nettie and Tom Keck.

At their Poway home, they share their thoughts about Walden Family Services. “What pulls at my heartstrings is that Walden looks out for children with special healthcare needs who may be harder to place in foster homes,” notes Terri. Many have physical or developmental disabilities, mental health or behavior issues, identify as LGBTQ, or are part of large sibling groups. Walden prepares foster and adoptive parents to care for these kids so they can grow up in loving families rather than in hospitals, skilled care facilities, or group homes. The goal is to foster relationships that will form the foundation for successful, fulfilling lives.

The Gainors, who have two college-age sons, Grant and Adam, also praise Walden for its programs for foster youth who “age out of the system,” faced with daunting challenges when they turn 18 without parental or family support. In fact, 65 percent of foster youth “have no place to call home” once they leave foster care. Walden helps them find transitional housing, teaches life skills, and assists with job searches and college applications.

The art-filled family room is a favorite gathering place in the Gainor home

The Gainors’ family-friendly home is both stylish and relaxed, filled with art and animals — Koda, a German shepherd-husky mix, and Mojo, a Havanese. “It’s just a chill kind of house,” says Terri. “Nothing fancy. Nice but comfortable. We want our kids to feel they can put their feet up on the furniture.”

The foyer features a painting by local
artist Adrian Zagorsky Abelar

There is artwork everywhere, mostly acquired locally, including a large painting in the foyer of a glamorous lady in a red gown by Adriana Zagorsky Abelar, and a colorful work by Peter Max in the formal dining room. The wall above the family room’s wet bar has luminous cork wallpaper that has the look of fish scales, and a striking painting on aluminum. Inspired by a Pasadena showcase home, the transitional kitchen has cream-colored cabinetry, black granite countertops, and a marble-topped island. A dining area surrounded by arched, west-facing windows offers beautiful sunset views. The elegant living room is designed in champagne tones with a large sofa and striped chairs.

The transitional kitchen combines classic styles and contemporary features

The couple’s expansive backyard is surrounded by olive trees, an Italian stone pine, and shrubbery that blooms year-round, attracting birds and butterflies. The retro pool, with its angular lines, is reminiscent of “old school Palm Springs,” says Terri. A large fire pit, surrounded by comfortable seating, has set the scene for s’mores with family and cocktails with friends over the past 16 years. A small house in the backyard has served as a Lego room when the boys were young, and later, as a place to shape and sand surfboards. Hiking, working out, and travel are among this active family’s pursuits. But it is philanthropy, especially Walden Family Services, that gives their lives meaning. 619.727.5897, waldenfamily.org   Andrea Naversen

The angular swimming pool is surrounded by lush landscaping

Photography by Vincent Knakal