RAMONA, Calif. — When children are given up for adoption overseas, it's extremely rare for them to meet their birth parents. In this Zevely Zone, I went to Ramona for a reunion story you have to see to believe.
It starts off with a video call from Vietnam. "Hey, Sam do you want to meet your dad? He is on the phone," asked John Ettore who is Sam's adopted father. John and Hope Ettore adopted Sam in 2005 from Vietnam. "For a minute I thought you guys were trying to mess with me," said Sam while rushing to the phone. "We had no idea this was about to happen," said John.
In 2005, a mother and father in Vietnam gave birth to a premature baby facing challenges so severe, they made the heart-breaking decision to give their son up for adoption. "So, we got that picture, and we were taken back, but at the same time my husband and I looked at each other and said how do we not help this child," said Hope.
Hope and her husband John adopted Sam and brought him to the US where doctors performed eleven surgeries. "I just want to say they did a wonderful job of taking care of me and raising me," said Sam who just a few days ago thought he was 17 years old. You'll learn more about that later!
The Ettore's are raising six children in their Ramona home. Hope and John adopted two boys, the second was Josiah who we featured in the Zevely Zone in 2018. "His mother died of tuberculosis," said Hope. Josiah was adopted from an Ethiopian orphanage. "I don't remember anything," said Josiah. Despite an amputated leg and a club foot, Josiah just swept the state championships in adaptive track.
"It's been a big weekend at the Ettore household," said Hope. The only setback? Two types of cancer Hope's been battling since 2015, have left her with just months to live. Finding Sam's birth parents is a dying wish for her. "Absolutely. I knew those parents would love, love, love to know how he is doing," said Hope.
They shared Sam's story on Facebook in Vietnam and a day later his birth parents were found. "Neither one of us could believe it. I was like are you serious? We are getting contacted by people saying we know who the parents are," said Hope.
Sam's birth parents in Vietnam are no longer together as a couple but both called him on Facetime after discovering he wanted to reunite. "Hello," said Sam to his mother who was in tears. Sam was told he looks like his uncle.
"Is that my sister?" asked Sam. He learned he has two siblings. Sam also had a twin brother. They are still trying to figure out if that twin survived.
"This is where the tumor was, they did a really good job," said Sam showing his parents his face. Vietnam's largest newspaper covered the reunion. Sam is big international news. "I don't know even what to say right now," said Sam.
"Do I still have grandparents that are alive?" asked Sam while talking to his father. Sam also learned his real birthday is May 27th. He thought he was 17 years old, turns out he already turned 18. Now that he is officially an adult, he wanted to say this, "I just want to say thank you guys for doing your hardest to take care of me. I am really sorry that you had to make a hard decision for putting me up to adoption but you guys are the ones that and my adopted family are the ones who saved my life and I am grateful for you guys."
John Ettore then proclaimed," "Sam. Wow! You just met you dad!" Sam added, "And my mom!"
Sam's parents are taking a DNA test to confirm the good news. The Ettore family hopes to make a trip to Vietnam soon for a face-to-face reunion.
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