Samuel Forrest said he found out his son was born with Down syndrome and that his wife would leave him because he wanted to raise the child.
Forrest's son, Leo, was born on Jan. 21 in an Armenian hospital. He said doctors there broke the news to him that the baby was born with Down syndrome.
"I had a few moments of shock," he told ABC News. But when he held his newborn for the first time, he fell in love.
"I looked at this guy and I said, he's beautiful," Forrest said of the meeting. "He's perfect and I'm absolutely keeping him."
When he went to see his wife in the hospital room, she gave him an "ultimatum."
"She told me if I kept him, then we would get a divorce," Forrest said.
His wife filed for divorce a week later. Forrest said he was also no longer welcome in the home that they had lived in with her family.
The baby's mother, Ruzan Badalyan, told ABC that she had a baby with Down syndrome who was with the father, whom she had left. She did not provide additional details to the network. In a statement on Facebook, Badalyan denied her husband's claims that she was ashamed of her newborn baby, or that she forced her husband to choose between his wife and his son.
In Armenia there is still little awareness about the disabled, Unicef reported. Children are sometimes institutionalized in orphanages or boarding schools at birth.
Not sure what to do without the support of his wife, Forrest turned to GoFundMe to ask for help.
In about a week, he'd already surpassed his goal of raising $60,000, which he hoped to use to support him and his son for a year.
Forrest, who is originally from Auckland, New Zealand, said he plans to move home with Leo, where it would be easier for him to integrate with society and find support.
Thursday night, Forrest posted an update on the GoFundMe site, saying:
Thanks everyone – we are stunned beyond words at the incredible support & love you've shown for little Leo.
9 days after we started our campaign, Leo and I found out in the wee hours of morning that we had crossed our target! He is a lucky guy to have the support of thousands of friends like you around the world.
Some of the additional funds that we have raised will be used to secure better living conditions in Auckland, and to give Leo higher quality opportunities when it comes to education - a good home and school cost money, but Leo will have all that and more, thanks to you.
We will use some of the money you've given to fund facilities and programs here in Armenia that will support future parents to keep their kids despite all disabilities, and to help better care for the special ones who end up away from their Mom & Dad. We'd also like to share the surplus funds with the only orphanage in Armenia that regularly takes abandoned Down Syndrome babies as well as other organisations that can help these children – thanks to your support we can start to make a difference already
Thanks again for your care and generosity!
Many of the people who donated to the campaign posted thoughtful messages about the love of a family member with Down syndrome:
Michelle Broder Van Dyke is a reporter and night editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Hawaii.
Contact Michelle Broder Van Dyke at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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