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Locals Help Get Orphans to Florida
January 22, 2010
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    Staff Writer

    FORT PIERCE — Smiles and joy abounded at the stroke of midnight Monday as Cara Boone of Port Orange held the two newest additions to her now seven-member family in her arms after a rescue flight from Haiti landed at a South Florida airport.

    The Haitian orphans, Kervens, 4 and Rebecca, 3, sat in Boone’s lap eating granola bar after granola bar while their three new sisters fawned over them with kisses and gentle strokes of their hair.

    Boone and her husband, Kevin, who flew back with the children aboard a private plane, refused to leave the boy and girl they were adopting in Port-au-Prince, the earthquake-ravaged capital of Haiti. The couple’s efforts led Monday to the rescue of 24 other youngsters living in the orphanage. A plane, donated by Hendrick Motorsports, arrived at St. Lucie County International Airport late Monday afternoon with 26 children.

    “Me trying to get my kids out snowballed and here we are,” said Cara Boone, whose determination is credited with paving the way home for all the children at Angel House Orphanage.

    The Haitian government, U.S. immigration and Homeland Security officials gave the green light Monday for the children to leave the poverty-stricken country for reunions with the U.S. families trying to adopt them.

    “God took our small efforts and multiplied it, and now every single child (at Angel House) is rescued,” Boone said, praising the Department of Homeland Security employee who helped them navigate the red tape holding the dire situation at a standstill.

    Kevin Boone flew to Haiti on Saturday with Gretchen Huijskens, founder of Angel House and its umbrella organization Three Angels Children’s Relief. The Boones said they wouldn’t rest, or leave Haiti, until their children could come home with them. The couple have three other children, all girls: Ella, 5, Anna, 9, and Ruth, 12, whom they adopted from an orphanage in Ghana in October.

    Across the country, parents adopting from Angel House spent much of the day Monday on edge, waiting for word that their children could join them in America and that the proper paperwork was issued in Haiti to prove it.

    When they finally received the good news, they were left scrambling, trying to get to the children who were flown into Florida.

    Those who got to Florida received additional help from members of Lifecoast Church of Palm Coast. The pastor, his wife and parishioners drove to Fort Pierce with vans and SUVs to use to help transport the newly reunited families to hotels for the evening.

    After the plane arrived, Boone could hardly contain herself as she attempted to get brief glimpses of her husband and the children through the glass doors of the Department of Homeland Security’s office at the St. Lucie airport after they exited the plane.

    “There’s Becca!,” Boone screamed, tears welling in her eyes. “I can’t wait any longer.”

    Boone and another couple from Michigan, who made it to Florida with the help of a donated corporate jet from their area, prayed aloud together outside the airport as they waited. Those who were unable to get to Florida until today drew up guardianship paperwork that would permit Huijskens to care for the children in Fort Pierce until the parents’ arrival, said Shannon Hoffman, a board member of Three Angels Children’s Relief, the orphanage’s umbrella organization.

    The parents who could not make it to the airport were left dismayed when it was explained to them over the phone that the children may have to be placed with the Department of Children & Families until the parents could arrive.

    But for Boone, the experiences of the previous few days amounted to nothing less than a miracle.

    “God is bringing such a beautiful thing out of this tragedy,” Boone said of the children to be united with their adoptive families after months, or years, of delays in the international adoption process.

    And the children’s rescue came not a moment too soon, Boone said.

    On their last days in Haiti, the children struggled to breathe through the dust and stench of death around them, Hoffman said. Food and water were becoming nearly impossible to come by and keeping the children safe amid the looting and rioting of a desperate nation was becoming a concern, Huijskens reported after arriving in Haiti last week.

    The orphanage sustained severe structural damage from the earthquake and aftershocks that followed. The children spent some time living outdoors and were later moved to a school and a clinic under the Three Angels umbrella.

    On their Facebook pages, Huijskens and adoptive parents begged for prayers and help.

    But by Monday afternoon, their spirits had brightened. Fear turned to joy.

    Even those who had brought home their adoptive children before disaster struck were affected.

    Cara Green of Ponce Inlet brought her two boys, Justin and Peterson, home from Haiti on Mother’s Day last year.

    “I was so shocked and happy” for these families, Green said Monday.

    Date: 2010-01-19