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Q&A // Nick & Whitney Runyon

Nick & Whitney Runyon are a few of our favorite people around. They are a husband and wife team and founders of The Archibald Project, a nonprofit dedicated to educating and inspiring a global movement to better care for orphaned and vulnerable children. They've adopted three children themselves from the Congo, and currently reside in Austin, TX. We loved getting to know them a little better through our Q&A with them - we have feeling you're going to love it too.

Tell us about you guys! How did you meet, how do you currently spend your time, and what is the Archibald Project for those who might not be familiar? 

We actually met cliff jumping outside of Austin. Nick was living in Florida working as an airline pilot and I was still in college. He flew into town to welcome his best friend back from living in South Sudan and we all met up to celebrate! 

We had an instant connection but because of life’s circumstances we never forgot about one another. A few years later he called me up and asked me on a date. Catch though was that he was now living in Chicago and I was in L.A. He pulled the pilot card, flew out for the day and we played our way through town. Nick then pursued me for 3 months while I strung him along, and then after one failed kiss attempt on his part I fell in love and 9 months later we were married! 

Currently we spend our time doing whatever our kids want to do, haha! We adopted a sibling group of 3 in May of 2018 and our lives look a lot different now than our first 9 years of marriage. You can see our daily adventures on my instagram @whitrunyon!

The Archibald Project is a media based nonprofit helping people to better care for orphaned and vulnerable children. You can see our films on our YouTube Channel, listen to our podcast here and follow us on social media for powerful stories! 

 

How do you guys balance working together with your personal life? What are the challenges and perks of being coworkers and also husband and wife? 

We love working together, but there are definitely challenges! Over the past 8 years I think we’ve come up with some good strategies to help us succeed and be the best work versions of ourselves. In the beginning we were just trying to start something so we were wearing all the different hats in a business, which meant we overlapped a lot, and as you can imagine led to a lot of disagreements or frustrating conversations. However, somewhere along the line we decided that we needed specific areas that each resided over so that at the end of the day someone has executive authority and the other had to respect and trust the final decision. That has helped us immensely. We also have open communication and talk through everything, nothing gets swept under the rug, at work or at home. 

 

Could you tell us a bit about the journey of adopting your three kiddos? 

Because of our work we have had the privilege of working with some amazing organizations who champion family preservation and keeping kids out of orphanages when possible. We worked with such an organization in 2015 and actually met our kids on that trip. 2 years later they asked us to pray for these siblings, that they would find a family...Which led us to asking if we were supposed to be that family. We didn’t have children and we desperately wanted them, but everything in our lives made it hard to say yes. We couldn’t see how we could go from 0 to 3, and we aren't talking 3 babies, we're talking a 5 1/2 year old with lots of energy, and twins that were 3. This just didn't make sense. In fact, it scared us out of our minds. We already fundraise for our jobs through The Archibald Project and TAP was completely reliant on Nick and myself. If one of us stepped away for a parental leave TAP would stop functioning. We officed out of our house, our 1,000 sqft house...we had one small car, we traveled internationally for our jobs...we were scared of not being enough...we didn’t know anything about parenting children from trauma. The list went on. 

But after 9 weeks of praying, talking to other adoptive families, seeking counsel from friends, we said yes. We then got everything ready and once we had custody in the Congo we moved over and became a family. 

 

We use the phrase We Go Together at Parker Clay a lot. What does community mean to you guys, and how have you been able to use it as a force for good? 

Community is everything to us. Without people believing in and supporting our mission with The Archibald Project it literally wouldn't exist. And without our community to help us with our new family we might have given up. I think community exists to help people through the hardships of life, to carry us. And I think community exists so that we can take what we learn from our pain and joys and pour it back out into those around us. Nothing is meant for us, I believe we are supposed to use whatever we’re given for others! 

 

What are your favorite Parker Clay products, and why? 

I’m obsessed with my Mari Backpack in Rust Brown and my Everly Crossbody! They are so functional and beautiful. I get so many compliments! 

How did the Archibald Project get its name? 

At the beginning of 2011, I sensed that I was supposed to reach out to an old friend and ask if I could photograph her two-year-old daughter. So I did…

The entire shoot I wasn’t quite sure why I was there. I kept praying, “Why am I here? Why am I doing this photo shoot for free?” I didn’t sense an answer, so I just assumed it wasn’t about me and kept shooting. Towards the end of the session, I asked the mom if they were going to have more children and she answered, “Well, we’re actually in the process of adopting.” 

It felt like the clouds parted, and I heard a voice deep in my heart, “You’re supposed to go with them and document their adoption.” So, I looked at my friend and said, “I think I’m supposed to go with you to Bulgaria and photograph your adoption.” 

And of course she was like, “Uh, well…let me talk to my husband…” and I was like, “Oh yeah, let me talk to my husband, too!”

Because Nick was an airline pilot, we were able to travel last minute to Bulgaria, allowing us to document the adoption of a seven-year-old boy with Down Syndrome. It was the most beautiful and humbling experience of our lives. 

A few weeks later, after we had returned home and put the photos on Facebook, I received a message from a complete stranger: “We are now adopting a five-year-old who is chronically ill from Ukraine. If it had not been for your photos we would have never found our son.”

That was the moment when we realized the power of storytelling to inspire people into action. We formed our orphan care advocacy nonprofit soon after and named it after the little Bulgarian boy whose adoption started it all. Archibald.

 

What’s on the horizon for The Archibald Project and for your family in 2020? 

We have some very exciting stories coming up! May is National Foster Care month and we’ll be doing an entire series on our Podcast on Foster Care and ending the month with a live podcast where bring the audience with us to meet 2 older children getting adopted out of Foster Care and into their court date!

 

Since you live in Austin, what are your favorite spots to hit if our readers are visiting? Eat, drink, see? 

Austin has the best coffee! I’m always amazed when we travel to larger cities and they don’t have as strong a coffee scene as we do! If you’re a coffee fan you have to visit: BetterHalf, Patika, Houndstooth and Thunderbird! The food scene changes here so often and since becoming parents we don’t get out as much as we used too, but a few family friendly amazing adult spots are Treaty Oak, Oddwood Ales and CRAFT.

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