By Wade Coggeshall
AVON — The Lucases have long had a heart for the plight of orphans. But with five children of their own, Cathy and Carl are too busy to adopt.
Through New Horizons for Children, they’re splitting the difference and hosting two orphans from the Ukraine for five weeks this summer.
“That was something we felt like we could do, to help change a life or two,” said Cathy. “It really seems like a small contribution to us.”
New Horizons, which focuses on the Ukraine, Latvia, and China, brings about 250 orphans to the United States annually for visits. The two staying with the Lucases are Deniss, age 16, and Lena, 14. They are siblings who have never been hosted.
“That was one of our criteria,” Cathy said. “We wanted to give them a family connection they haven’t experienced yet.”
Another reason is because they’re close in age to the two children the Lucases still have at home — 17-year-old Levi and Bella, who’s 15.
“We chose kids that are their peers,” Cathy said. “Our kids are very interested in learning their culture and interacting with them long-term. We’re hoping to forge a deep bond.”
Bella is excited about spending part of her summer break with Deniss and Lena.
“It will be nice to have people here around my age,” she said. “We should have lots of interesting things to talk about.”
They’ll fly June 26 from the airport in Kiev to New York’s JFK . From there it’s a connecting flight to Indianapolis, Louisville, or Columbus, Ohio, depending on where the most host families live (Cathy’s aware of four in Indiana who are participating).
They plan on doing as much with Deniss and Lena as time allows while they’re here.
“We’re doing this in lieu of a family vacation this year,” Cathy said.
Tentative plans include local attractions like Indians games and IMAX movies. Carl is a firefighter stationed along the canal in Indianapolis.
“We really love downtown, so we’re just excited to show them Indy,” Cathy said.
Ultimately it will be what the orphans want to do. Each has a bio that’s matched with a host family, like if they want to see a beach and a particular family lives near one.
“We’ve talked with other host families and some kids just want to hang out. Just the simplest things are what they ask for,” said Cathy, noting Deniss and Lena don’t have any specific requests.
“They just want to come to America.”
The tougher part is cost. The Lucases are paying about $6,000 to bring these orphans here, who will arrive with just the clothes they’re wearing. Cathy and Carl are hoping to offset some of that expense by hosting a yard/bake sale 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 1 at their home, 5427 Keswick Court.
Donations from both individuals and businesses that can be raffled would be gladly accepted. Tax-deductible monetary donations also may be made via the PayPal link online at NewHorizonsForChildren.org (specify “Lucas Family Hosting E184” at checkout).
It’s not just their present situation that’s bleak for many of these orphans. They’re on their own upon age 17 and don’t have many options.
“Once you have the stigma of being an orphan in Eastern Europe, opportunities dry up,” Cathy said. “They want to be taxi drivers because that’s their only hope of ever having a car. Their dreams are so different from what we have here.”
All they know about Deniss and Lena is that they’ve been orphans since they were 6. It’s not uncommon for many of these children to be orphaned upon birth, especially those with special needs. Cathy says alcoholism is so rampant there that part of their agreement in hosting is to not have any alcohol in their home during the visit.
Offering some kernel of hope is a reason why the Lucases are participating in this. Orphan advocacy is another.
“I just don’t think many people have much of an idea of what goes on outside their little world,” Cathy said. “Until we allow our hearts to be broken by the plight of the helpless, the world will never be changed for the better.”