Story fuels another adoption
By Kelly Feser Eells
An anniversary is, by definition,
"the yearly return of the date of an event; the celebration
of that event." From the rented ballroom, six-piece band
affair to the intimate second honeymoon; the day you buried the
hatchet, made your peace, changed your life - there are as many
different kinds of anniversaries as there are ways to celebrate
them. And the best part is, there is no such thing as a bad anniversary.
Just ask Ojai's Karl and Donna Pope, whose anniversary of their
daughter Lilli's adoption was made all the sweeter with news
of another family's adoption - an adoption that, in large part,
came about because of their "public" celebration of
Lilli's arrival one-and-a-half years ago.
Donna Pope's grin is as wide as her 2-year-old daughter's as
she recalls how, "as a direct result of the Jan. 25, 2002
article in the Ojai Valley News about our experience, another
child was adopted from the same orphanage where we found Lilli."
Pope explains that longtime Ojai resident Ginger Wilson "called
me right after seeing the article, because her daughter and son-in-law
wanted to adopt but were having trouble with their own agency."
Wilson, a 2001 Living Treasure with a near-legendary generosity
of spirit, put her daughter, Gracia, and son-in-law, Dave Hopcia,
in touch with the Popes. "After speaking with them, and
telling them about our experience, they switched to the agency
we used in New York. They then went to Kazakhstan (known until
1991 as the Soviet Socialist Republic of Kazakh) and found a
beautiful little boy they named Aiden."
Malootka Orphanage, where Lilli lived the first seven-and-a-half
months of her life and Aiden the first four years of his, is
typical of such facilities in the still-developing country: clean
and efficiently run, but sorely understaffed.
There is only one nurse and/or caregiver for every 12 to 16 infants
- even less for older children - making it virtually impossible
to provide enough of the one-on-one stimulation growing children
need. As a result, all of the children are developmentally delayed
(about one month for every three months of life); although these
delays start disappearing almost from the moment a child is adopted.
By the time a child is 2 or 3, he or she will have caught up
with her peers.
Lilli certainly seems to affirm this. "She's doing wonderfully,"
her proud mother beams. "Lilli amazes us every day with
her sense of humor, intelligence and enthusiasm. She's physically
advanced for her age, and though she's a little delayed in talking,
she's right on the verge of it. Believe me, she has no trouble
getting her message across!"
Aiden's story, however, is "really quite amazing."
Indeed it is. At four, Aiden had two things going against him:
As an "older child," he received little, if any, personal
attention, much less any one-on-one stimulation or basic health
(Medical care in Kazakhstan is
well below both North American and Western European standards,
and basic medical supplies, including disposable needles, anesthetics,
and antibiotics, are in short supply.) Even more heartbreaking
is the fact that, at four, he had little chance of ever being
adopted in his native country, where even three-year-olds are
considered "too old."
And though it was love at first sight for the Hopcias (Dave,
Gracia, and daughter Abby), they were surprised at how readily
he loved them back. As Gracia noted, "Aiden adjusted just
wonderfullyonce he and the rest of us made it through the initial
shock of that first month (January, 2003)! It's been amazing
to watch his transformation from 'orphanage kid' to 'family kid.'"
She goes on to explain how, shortly after returning to the United
States and their Colorado home, "we discovered that Aiden
was so farsighted, 20/400, that he couldn't see two feet in front
of him." Fitted with glasses, "he's been seeing a brand
In addition, "we noticed
that, as he tried to speak English, his words were mostly mispronounced
and he was having trouble with a lot of basic sounds. That's
when we discovered he had fluid build-up in his middle ear, both
of them. One was so severe that his eardrum wasn't vibrating
at all but if it bothered him, he never complained."
Aural tubes, to facilitate drainage, corrected the problem, "and
now he can actually hear. The poor kid; not only was he in an
orphanage for four years, but he couldn't see or hear very well,
Aiden, Gracia says, is "animated, happy, loving and chatty."
And possibly the most amazing little boy in Colorado: "He's
already gone down the slopes with us!"
Pope, meanwhile, has found something to celebrate each and every
day. "I can't tell you how great it feels to Karl and me
to know that Lilli has affected a life in such a dramatic way.
So," she winks, "with the power of word of mouth and
the press in mind, I leave you with this"
Janice Bergeron, director of Children at Heart Adoption Services,
"is again bringing ten little four-year-old boys to the
States from Karaganda, Kazakhstan."
The children arrive July 30 for
"about a one-month stay," Bergeron writes. "They
are all adorable, adoptable, and looking for host/adoptive families."
Anyone interested in this program
is asked to call Janice at 518-664-5988, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"I hope to make this summer,"
Bergeron adds, "as wonderful and enjoyable as possible for
10 lucky little boys."
The Ojai Valley News
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