Family Christmas dinners are often a time to visit with long-lost relatives, but one Cambridge couple is taking things even farther.

Over the past 20 years, Reid Budgell and Sandy Falkiner have seen more than 100 teenage girls pass through their doors as foster children.

“We have a lot of kids out in this world,” says Falkiner.

“We didn’t have them obviously, but it’s kind of nice.”

Almost as remarkably, Budgell and Falkiner still keep in touch with about 30 of their former foster daughters.

Recently, they had four of them over for a special holiday dinner. It was the first time some of them had ever met.

“There’s just something rewarding about seeing the kids going out. You know they’re happy, they’re going to have their ups and downs, but you know somehow you made that connection with them and you helped them through something,” says Falkiner.

At any given time, there are about 500 youth in foster care across Waterloo Region. Even if their homes aren’t necessarily where they grew up, they are where they developed strong bonds and learned important lessons – something as true of Budgell and Falkiner’s residence as it is of any other foster home.

Foster daughters past and present are quick to line up to compliment the couple, with many of them using the names Mom and Dad.

“She showed me what love is, and that’s the biggest thing anyone can show someone,” says daughter Melissa Coleman.

That display of love turned Coleman into a perennial problem foster child who says nobody wanter her to a mother with three of her own children and three step-children, including two named Sandy for Falkiner.

Dakota Coleman, 13, says she’s learned her own lessons from the couple.

“It doesn’t matter where you come from. You’re the person people help you become,” she says.

Alica Losee found so much love at the Cambridge homestead that she stayed with Budgell and Falkiner a year past her 18th birthday, when foster care legally ends.

Losee became the first member of the household in several years to graduate high school. She now plans to become a social worker, owing her inspiration to Falkiner, as well as bring in some foster children of her own.

“I want to be a foster parent when I’m older,” she says.

“There are so many kids that need a home. Why bring another kid into the world when you can take kids that need a house to go to?”

But for Budgell and Falkiner, there’s nothing special about what they do.

“Somebody has to help them,” says Budgell.

“Why not us?”