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New Eagle family welcomes newly adopted boy

| Monday, Dec. 3, 2001

When Kailey Berdar awoke on Thanksgiving Day, the 3-year-old girl immediately began a frantic search.

"She was running through the house screaming, "my brother, where's my brother?,'" Kailey's mother, Rona Berdar, recalled with a laugh.

Kailey's initial fear was calmed by her parents, who took her to the crib where her new, 6-month-old brother was sleeping.

Todd Michael Jorge Berdar had plenty to be thankful for, even though he was too young to realize all that occurred to bring him from Guatemala to his new home in New Eagle.

But his sister understands what it meant to travel half-way around the world to find a happy home with Michael and Rona Berdar - her parents. Kailey moved from China to America in March 1999.

The couple began the adoption process in April. The decision to adopt a second child, though, was made at about the same time they received Kailey.

"We would have brought two back with Kailey if we could," Rona Berdar said. "Financially you have to regroup."

For a second time, the couple turned to Adoption from the Heart, an agency that specializes in helping American couples adopt children from foreign countries.

The Berdars, seeking a boy, placed fifth on a waiting list on May 10.

On May 25, Jorge Wilfrido was born in Guatemala City. Before that happened, though, his biological parents decided to give him up for adoption.

The infant boy was handed over to a foster mother who cared for him until she released Jorge - Todd - to the Berdars.

Four days after Jorge's birth, Rona received a call at work from her social worker Debbie Cohen. "You just had a baby," Cohen told her.

"I'm probably the only woman to continue working (right) after having a baby," Berdar quipped.

The couple received photographs of the baby a few days later.

"As soon as you see the pictures, you know it's your baby," she said.

Rona's brother, William Marlett, arranged for their flights. But as the necessary paperwork neared completion, terrorists struck America.

"When this happened on Sept. 11, I said 'I'll walk if I have to,'" Rona Berdar said.

The couple left for Guatemala on Nov. 16, staying overnight in Texas before arriving in the Central American city the following afternoon.

By 4 p.m., their new son was delivered to the Berdars' hotel room.

Rona Berdar said the foster mother was overcome with emotion when it came time to leave the baby.

"The foster mother truly cried," Rona Berdar recalled. "She had him six months and it was hard for her to give him up. We handed him back to her four times.

"Finally, she said to the (translator,) 'tell them I don't know what to say.'"

There were differences between the Berdar's two adoptions.

In China, the Berdars were one of 12 couples who simultaneously traveled to the Asian country to adopt children. Linda Sitko of Dunbar, who adopted Abby from China, will be Todd's godmother, Rona Berdar said.

The Berdars were the lone couple in Guatemala to adopt a child the day they received Todd.

There were cultural differences in the two countries as well, they said.

Arriving home on Nov. 21, Todd had a whole, new family to greet him: grandparents Ruth Marlett of New Eagle and Dorothy and Emil Berdar of Elizabeth Township, and great-grandmother Florence Wiliuszis of New Eagle.

On the Berdars' mantle sits miniature flags from the United States, Guatemala and China - proudly marking the multi-cultural family.

"It was a good Thanksgiving present," Rona Berdar said

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