Called to loveArea News
-- -- Back in 2005, Jim and Peggy Korson had a realization that would change their lives. They saw their two daughters, Mindy and Kristin, ages 16 and 14 at the time, growing up and knew that they’d be soon leaving the home. But Jim and Peggy weren’t ready to lead a life without children just yet.
By: Katrina Styx, Pierce County Herald
Back in 2005, Jim and Peggy Korson had a realization that would change their lives. They saw their two daughters, Mindy and Kristin, ages 16 and 14 at the time, growing up and knew that they’d be soon leaving the home. But Jim and Peggy weren’t ready to lead a life without children just yet.
“We just basically felt called to adopt kids,” Jim said.
They were at a Steven Curtis Chapman concert when they found their opportunity. Chapman talked about a non-profit he and his wife founded to help care for orphans and find them families. Jim signed up to receive adoption materials that day.
Peggy said she figured they would be simply helping out with adoption fundraising – sponsoring a child or something along those lines. But as they reviewed the materials and prayed about how they should respond, they started to feel that bringing a child into their home would be a good fit. They had been blessed financially, they said, and felt they would be able to give a child the love he or she needed.
“Of course, when we started we thought we would adopt just one,” Jim said.
They also figured they would adopt a normal, healthy baby, Peggy added, until their younger daughter Kristin challenged them.
“Why aren’t we going for the kids that most people aren’t going for?” Peggy recalled Kristin asking them.
Peggy is a special education teacher, and Jim a pharmacist, and through more prayers they felt their call to adopt narrow to a call to adopt a child with special needs.
“There’s such a need,” Jim said.
They started looking over children on the waiting child list – a list of orphaned children that are less likely to be adopted either because they had special needs or were over the age of 3. The Korsons’ oldest daughter Mindy saw a picture of one Chinese boy, Caleb, who had a cleft lip and cleft palate.
“We just saw this little guy and we both said, ‘that’s him,’” Peggy said.
Cleft lip and cleft palate is a birth defect in which there is an opening in the roof of a child’s mouth and lip into the nasal cavity. The Korsons had some research to do on the subject, so they talked to Dr. McKenzie at Allina, who invited them to a session staff was scheduled to attend on the very same topic the following week. The session was given by one of the top doctors in the field, who practices at Gillette Children’s Hospital in St. Paul. One by one, the pieces were falling into place.
On Oct. 31, 2005, the Korsons brought 3-year-old Caleb home to Hastings. He had already had surgery in China to correct his cleft lip, but still needed more work to fully correct the problem. They took him to Gillette, and within six weeks had his first surgery done. The next two years saw four more surgeries, and two summers from now he’s scheduled to have the major surgery done, grafting bone into his mouth to permanently fill the hole.
Caleb’s story was only the beginning. When the Korsons adopted him, they realized they wanted to bring home more than one child, but China only allows one adoption per year. Micah, another Chinese boy with a cleft lip and palate, came to Hastings on Dec. 20, 2006. Micah had gotten his surgeries before he adoption, so he came to the Korsons with a decent mouth, Peggy said, but he had other challenges. He was incredibly weak, due to a lack of nutrition, spending a lot of time in his crib and being carried around almost everywhere. Because of his cleft lip and palate, he couldn’t suck on a bottle as an infant, so was spoon fed sugar water, the Korsons were told. When they brought him home, he couldn’t walk 10 feet without falling.
“The beginning was scary,” Peggy recalled.
It took about 18 months, but with proper nutrition, a loving family and more surgeries he came into his own. Now, Micah is the strongest of the Korson’s younger children.
The boys’ stories were so unique that Gillette recommended them to be featured on KS95 for Kids, a fundraiser program the radio station holds every year to benefit the Children’s Cancer Research Fund and Gillette. They were happy to help. Gillette was a blessing to them, they said. Their story was aired on the radio along with several other children benefited by the two organizations and helped the station raise more than $413,000 this year.
“It’s a happy story,” Jim said. “These two kids were down and out in an orphanage, and who knows if they ever would’ve been adopted.”
Now they’re as normal as any other child, he said.
Still, the Korsons weren’t done helping orphaned children.
“When we got the two boys, I knew that we weren’t done,” Peggy said.
“We really felt that we needed to adopt some more,” Jim added.
This time they looked in Ethiopia. Again they turned to the waiting child list, in search of two children under the age of 5 with normal health. Caleb came to the Korsons with a strong sense of birth order, and had already been insisting that he was his new family’s oldest, even though the Korsons had two older daughters. They thought they had to adopt children who would be younger than him, so as to not make him feel stripped of his place in the family, but when they went to Ethiopia to meet two orphans in July of 2009, they instead met a group of three siblings. Like it was with Caleb, the Korsons knew as soon as they saw the group that they had just found their new children.
Talya, the oldest, was about 14 years old and on the verge of being kicked out of the orphanage because of her age, Kristin said, and that posed a different sort of adjustment for the Korsons. While they were accustomed to raising young children and teaching them how to be adults, at age 14 in Ethiopia, Talya had already had the life experience of a 25- or 26-year-old American. Instead of teaching her how to be an adult, they had to teach her how to be a kid, Peggy said.
The Korsons got to see all of their children grow in great strides once they came to Hastings.
“Once they get into a loving environment, they just blossom,” Jim said.
Of course there are difficulties, Peggy said, but there are so many places they can go for help.
“We live in a country where we have a lot of access to a lot of great things,” Jim said.
They encourage other families to consider adoption as well.
“These kids need homes,” Jim said. “These kids need families.”
And besides helping the children, it’s affected their own outlook.
“I can honestly say adoption has totally and radically changed our life,” Jim said.
The Korsons welcome emails from anyone who’s considering adoption or wants to know more about the process, or anyone who wants to know more about their experience with Gillette. They can be contacted at korsonadoption@ gmail.com.
Katrina Styx is a reporter for the Hastings Star Gazette.