Utah families host Ukrainian orphans

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Kim Golling couldn't stand it.

As she kept looking at her watch, then at the arrival board at the Salt Lake City International airport Friday night, every second that went by made her a little more excited.

"It's kind of like waiting for Christmas," said Golling, "you know, like when you're five years old? I just can't wait for them to get here."

She's talking about a group of Ukrainian orphans coming to Utah to spend 18 days with host families. Dozens of families were at the airport waiting for their arrival.

I think the public isn't aware of how terrible a problem it is. There's like 120 million of these kids worldwide. It's gratifying that we can help a few.

–Vern Garrett.

Many held Ukrainian flags. One group made a big poster welcoming them to America.

The Save A Child Foundation is the Salt Lake City-based group bringing the orphans to Utah. Founder Vern Garrett and his wife Nanette adopted Ukrainian sisters and fell in love with their culture.

After hearing about all the orphans in the country, they decided to start their charity with the hope of getting as many adopted as possible.

"I think the public isn't aware of how terrible a problem it is. There's like 120 million of these kids worldwide," said Vern Garrett. "It's gratifying that we can help a few."

Golling says when she told her husband and her eight children about the idea of hosting, they were all excited.

"I was worried they were going to think I was nuts," she said. "But they were all excited about it as well. We've been getting their room ready. It's going to be really nice."

"It gives our kids a learning experience. It gives us a learning experience to not be so self-involved, to reach out and try to help others," said Andy Golling, Kim's husband.

When the orphans finally landed in Salt Lake City and started coming down the escalator in the Delta terminal, everyone began cheering.

Some of the children seemed to be excited. Others looked tired. A few seemed to be in shock.

Translators helped with the initial meetings, but after that, it was up to the families to make the 18-day adventure as much fun as possible.

"More than anything in the whole world, I just want them to have a good time," said Golling. "I just want them to really feel that we care for them."

The orphans do have to go back to the Ukraine, but if they click with their families, there's a chance an adoption could happen. Adoptions run roughly $20,000 though, which Garrett admits is the toughest part in getting them done.

Even still, it's the opportunity of a lifetime for them.

"We get to see all the families receive these kids," said Garrett. "We've seen several families now make them a permanent part of their home, and that's our pay. That's our pay right there."

E-mail: acabrero@ksl.com


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