Every Saturday before Thanksgiving, National Adoption Day marks a collective national effort to raise awareness of the more than 100,000 children in foster care waiting for permanent and loving families. Because of this, in 2014, approximately 4,500 youth in foster care were adopted by their forever families over the 15th annual National Adoption Day.
Here’s a look at some of the many Team USA athletes, past and present, who are forever thankful for their adopted parents:
Cristina Albert (Paralympic snowboarding) earned a career-best fourth-place finish in her sport at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games. She was born in Romania with amniotic band syndrome and a clubfoot, and underwent several reconstructive surgeries after being adopted at age 3 from an orphanage.
Peter and Kitty Carruthers (figure skating) were four-time U.S. champions and won a silver medal at the Sarajevo 1984 Olympic Winter Games in pairs skating as siblings. The two were both adopted as young children, and Kitty has gone on to adopt two sons of her own.
Toby Dawson (moguls skiing) won a bronze medal in moguls at the Torino 2006 Olympic Winter Games and is currently the coach of the Korean national freestyle skiing team. Born in South Korea as Kim Bong-seok, he went missing when he was with his mother at a crowded market. He was eventually adopted and renamed by a couple from Colorado, and in 2012 he finally had the chance to reunite face-to-face with his biological parents, who saw his image in the media.
Scott Hamilton (figure skating) won four consecutive U.S. and world championships in his sport from 1981-84 and took gold at the Sarajevo 1984 Olympic Winter Games, becoming the first American man to medal in figure skating since 1960. He was adopted at 6 weeks old by two professors in Ohio. He and his wife Tracie recently adopted two children of their own from Haiti.
Reese Hoffa (track and field) represented the United States in three Olympic Games, winning bronze in the shot put at the London 2012 Games. He was adopted at age 4 after a fire destroyed his family’s home, but he recently reunited with his birth mother.
Lopez Lomong (track and field) was one of the Lost Boys of Sudan who came to the United States to live with foster parents at age 16. He became a U.S. citizen in 2007, representing Team USA at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games — where he was the Opening Ceremony flag bearer — and the London Games in 2012.
Jessica Long (Paralympic swimming) is a 12-time Paralympic champion, ESPYS award winner and is gearing up for her fourth Paralympic Games. Born without fibulas, ankles or heels, Long was adopted by U.S. couple Beth and Steve Long from a Russian orphanage at 13 months.
Greg Louganis (diving) won two gold medals at both the Los Angeles 1984 and Seoul 1988 Olympic Games. He is the only man and the second diver in Olympic history to sweep the diving events in consecutive Olympic Games. His teenage biological parents placed him up for adoption when he was 8 months old in California.
Oksana Masters (Paralympic cycling, Nordic skiing) struck the spotlight when she claimed bronze in rowing at the London 2012 Paralympic Games and then went on to win silver and bronze medals in cross-country skiing at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games. Masters, now training to compete in cycling at the Rio 2016 Games, was born in Ukraine and spent her early years in orphanages after being abandoned by her birth parents. An American family in Louisville, Kentucky adopted her at age 7. “I felt like Cinderella or Annie walking into the new mansion,” she said.
Tatyana McFadden (Paralympic track and field) is a three-time Paralympic and 12-time world champion wheelchair racer who also medaled in cross-country skiing at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games. McFadden, who captured her third straight marathon grand slam this year, was born paralyzed from the waist down and was abandoned at an orphanage in St. Petersburg, Russia. At age 6, she was adopted by Deborah McFadden, who had visited the orphanage as part of her work as commissioner for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Sciences.
Hannah McFadden (Paralympic track and field) made her Paralympic debut at the London 2012 Games and won two bronze medals at this year’s IPC Athletics World Championships. She was born in Albania without a fibula or femur and has one leg amputated above the knee. Like Tatyana, she was adopted by Deborah McFadden and moved with her new family to Maryland.
Paige McPherson (taekwondo) won a bronze medal in the women’s -67 kg. event at both the London 2012 Olympic Games and this year’s world championships, plus gold at the 2015 Pan American Games. “McFierce,” as she is known, grew up in South Dakota, where she and her four siblings were adopted by Dave and Susan McPherson.
Alonzo Mourning (basketball), who played 15 years in the NBA, winning a title with the Miami Heat in 2006 and taking part in seven All-Star Games, won gold with Team USA at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. Mourning went to live with foster parents at age 12 when his parents divorced, and to this day, he has been a strong adoption advocate and philanthropist.
Dan O’Brien (track and field) won gold in the decathlon at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games and has three world titles to his name. Adopted at the age of 2 in Oregon, he was raised in a home with seven other children of racially mixed backgrounds.
Aaron Parchem (figure skating) competed at the Torino 2006 Olympic Winter Games in pairs skating with Marcy Hinzmann. He was adopted as an infant by a Chicago couple, and he credits his adoptive parents as the reason he was able to get to the Games.
Elizabeth Stone (Paralympic swimming) is a three-time Paralympic medalist and three-time Paralympian. She was born in the country of Georgia with a shortened right femur bone and, after four corrective surgeries, had to have her foot amputated. On the fourth of July, at age 4, she was adopted from an orphanage by Linda Stone.
Stuart Lieberman covered Paralympic sports for three years at the International Paralympic Committee, including at the London 2012 and Sochi 2014 Games. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.