Health & Family

Olympics take on added meaning for adoptive families

Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO — The Beijing Olympics isn't just about swimming and gymnastics. For some families who have adopted from China, it's another opportunity to celebrate their child's birth country. We asked several adoptive families how they were marking China's coming-out party on the world stage.

When Kate and Steve Hall of Buffalo Grove, Ill., traveled to China in September 2006 to adopt their first son, Kate bought an Olympics T-shirt for herself. When she went to China again in June to adopt their second son, she loaded up on souvenirs, including mascot dolls that sing Chinese songs.

“They're really loud, and they look like a cell phone.”

The family plans to root for both China and the United States, although “if one of the Olympians is from one of my sons' provinces (Shanxi and Henan), I'll definitely root for (that athlete).”

Hall's 3-year-old understands some things — like the competitions — about the Olympics. But Hall is hoping he'll learn even more. “For it to be in his homeland is a great opportunity to teach him more about China. … It's really exciting,” she said.

Laura Schulze of Glen Ellyn, Ill., started thinking about the Games when she traveled to China four years ago to adopt one of her children. “We would see advertisements and signs of the coming Olympics,” she said. With the event finally here, she decided to throw an Olympics party at her home with 11 families with children from China.

The kids will compete in egg races with a spoon, water-balloon tosses, racing with a balloon between the legs and even a limbo dance. “I thought the kids would make some Olympic medals with ribbon and paper,” Schulze said.

Jacquie Marquardt, husband Aaron and their daughters Amalia, 5, Sadie, 21 months, and Emilee, 18 months, plan to attend the Schulze party and wear Olympics T-shirts. Amalia and Sadie were born in China, in the Chongqing and Jiangxi Provinces, respectively.

“We are so excited. I think the adults are more excited than the kids,” Marquardt said.

As for the Games, they plan to watch every night.

“We're trying to explain to Amalia what the Olympics are, and that it's special because it's in China,” Marquardt said. “And she wants to know why we can't go to China to see the Olympics.”

At 5 years old, Amalia loves “anything related to China, she's really interested in it now,” Marquardt said.

The Bellairs (parents Rick and Ellen and their daughters, Mallory and Jade) of Woodstock, Ill., originally thought about taking a heritage trip to China during the Olympics, but the thought of crowds and the likely inflated expenses changed their mind.

Instead, the family traveled to China in spring 2007 with Mallory (born in Guangdong Province) and Jade (born in Hunan) whom they adopted in 1996 and 2001, respectively.

Mallory, 12, enjoyed visiting China so much that she incorporated information from her trip for a school project focused on the Olympics.

Ellen Bellairs said they'll watch as much coverage as they can, but it's not all about the competitions: “We love the sports, but (it means more) because it's in China and our connection with the girls.”

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© 2008, Chicago Tribune.

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Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. AMX-2008-08-05T11:09:00-04:00

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