Good Heart: Couple Adopt Four Sisters From Ethiopia
For Ryan and Sara Hall, life at home is now busier than ever.
The world-class runners went to an orphanage in Ethiopia and became parents of four girls — Hana, 15, Mia, 13, Jasmine, 9 and Lily, 5.
However, adopting the girls was not a quick and easy process. While they submitted documentation in early 2015, there were delays by both the Ethiopian government and U.S. immigration.
“You’re just passing papers around,” Sara Hall said. “It’s a good thing we’re endurance athletes, because this takes a lot of perseverance.”
The couple started looking into adoption years ago, but Ryan Hall found himself getting nervous about the process, and said he couldn’t picture himself being called “dad.” But that nervousness quickly changed, he said.
“I think it was more excitement for me knowing that we were on this grand adventure,” he said. “When you start the adoption process, you start doing your homework.”
Ryan Hall said before they made things official, they asked the girls if they wanted to join their family rather than just plucking them out of the orphanage. The couple had already been visiting the girls for a few months, and they had become attached to each other. In addition, Ryan and Sara both took lessons in Amharic — the language spoken in Ethiopia — to communicate better.
And in October 2015, their family was finally complete.
Within two weeks of arriving in Redding, the girls were taking classes at Redding Christian School, their first time ever being enrolled in a school. The only other lessons they had previously were half-hour English lessons at their orphanage.
“School is a privilege for them,” Sara Hall said.
And now that Ryan is a father, he’s also decided to retire from long-distance running. “They’ve only inspired me,” he said about becoming a new dad of four.
After running for 10 years, he said he knows it’s time to stop. “That’s a long time pounding the pavement,” he said. “My body’s just been really run down.”
Ryan Hall holds the U.S. half-marathon record and was a member of the past two Olympic teams. A hamstring injury prevented him from completing the 2012 Olympic marathon.
But he said he’ll continue to guide Sara, who will train for the Olympic trials in Los Angeles. In addition, he’ll have more time with the kids, who are becoming runners themselves and have already taken part in the Frosty Fun Run and Turkey Trot in Redding.
“We’re also trying to see what their gifts are,” Sara Hall said.
While Hana, the oldest, is shy, Mia can be found in the kitchen cooking various Ethiopian dishes. But now that she’s in the U.S, she said she enjoys eating pizza and hamburgers. Mia said she especially likes it when Ryan makes them pancakes in the morning.
Sara Hall said they usually eat protein-packed pancakes for breakfast. “They’re eating healthy and they don’t know it,” Sara laughed.
And 9-year-old Jasmine already has already found her love for Walt Disney cartoons, especially the princess characters.
Sara understands that the girls sometimes miss Ethiopia, but they try to keep the culture alive by cooking various Ethiopian foods and listening to music.
They’ve already taken many trips to see their families in Big Bear and Santa Rosa, and Lily also drew a picture, one of many, of the whole family together during Christmas holiday. And it’s something Sara and Ryan were happy to see.
“Before it was very quiet,” Ryan said. “It feels like how it’s supposed to be.”