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2 ROMANIAN TODDLERS FIND A FAMILY AND FREEDOM IN AMERICA

Quinn Kelson turns 3 years old on Sunday. Unlike his first two birthdays, this year Quinn will have a party, some presents and a family.

Quinn and his sister, Hilary, are two of many Romanian children recently adopted by Utah families.With a great desire to adopt and medical supplies provided by Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in hand, Jim Kelson, 50, director of physical therapy at the medical center, and his wife Valerie, 44, a former member of the Utah State Board of Education, made their way to Romania March 26. The Kelsons are parents of five boys and one girl, ages 13 to 24.

"I was told it would be trying. But I didn't expect to see such poverty and the people's despair," Valerie Kelson said. "We would go through orphanage after orphanage and see children lined up in cribs - every child was breathtakingly beautiful."

Three weeks after arriving in Calarasi, Romania, Valerie Kelson found 13-month-old Hilary in a dystrophic hospital/orphanage. In these hospitals are found the premature, underweight and sickly children.

She met Hilary's biological parents. "They showed very little emotion about Hilary's adoption. The only emotion they showed was curiosity," she said. "I had lacy tops and socks . . . for Hilary. I showed them to her mother, she smiled and said `good in America.' "

Quinn was left at an orphanage by his young unwed mother. "We went into this orphanage; they brought several boys out," Valerie Kelson said. "Quinn broke away from the group and ran toward Jim, threw his arms around Jim's legs and buried his head between Jim's knees. Jim said, `We don't have to look any further.' "

Once the Kelsons found their children, Jim and 17-year-old daughter Heather flew back to the United States, leaving Valerie to clear visas and bring the children home.

Little did she know how long that would take.

First the children's blood needed to be tested for hepatitis B and AIDS, but the laboratory refused to give the tests. Valerie Kelson remembered she had some syringes in the medical supplies.

"I offered them to the lab because they didn't have any. You have no idea how desperate they are for supplies," she said. With that gift, the children were tested.

While awaiting visas, she stayed in her $20-a-day apartment and began teaching her new children about love, hugs and tenderness. Up until then the only human touch they had felt was during scheduled diaper changes and at bath time.

Meanwhile, back in the United States the CBS show "60 Minutes" aired a segment about Romanian adoptions. "That went right to Romania and was detrimental to those adopting. The U.S. Embassy immediately clamped up.

It was only when Valerie Kelson became very ill with vomiting and high fevers that the Immigration and Naturalization Service helped her.

She and the children arrived home May 8.