This morning a great article came out in the paper about Ricardo's wrestling career, focusing on his improvement and his spectacular season. He is now 23-4. Today I am going to send the following to the sports writer.
Dear Sports Writer (yes, I will put the name):
Thanks so much for covering our son Ricardo and his successful wrestling career. I thought maybe you'd like to know the rest of the story about Ricardo and his brother Leon.
Ricardo spent the first ten years of his life moving around various Guatemalan orphanages. While other kids his age were introduced to wrestling as preschoolers, his life was very different from theirs. His mind churned with an uncertain future as he watched the younger kids being adopted year after year as he was passed over because he was not legally freed for adoption until he was "too old." Would he live in an orphanage until he was 13 and then be let go to live on the streets like most of the orphaned boys his age? Or would he be lucky enough to join a family?
Leon spent several years in foster care -- a smart, compliant young man who was simply "too old" for most prospective adoptive parents. He and his brother, who was 8 at the time, had been separated from parents and older siblings and were pretty sure they would not be adopted. They knew that most people when wanting to adopt children wouldn't want boys who were 8 and 12.
When Ricardo joined our family in 2004 he was our 10th child to be adopted. He joined his other 9 siblings when we lived in Luverne, MN. Seldom speaking, soft-spoken and determined, he set out to tackle the task of learning to speak a new language, learning to read and write in a new language, and learning about culture and a land very different from those of his origins.
In 2007 Leon and his younger brother completed our family of twelve children, who at that time ranged in age from 8-21. One of the most cooperative, intelligent, and kind young men we had ever met, he moved in only a few months before his 13th birthday. Immediately he began to show his character.
In hte fall of 2007, soon after Leon moved in and started 7th grade at East, Ricardo was in 6th grade at Franklin, having been held back because of his English as a Second Language issues. When staff at Franklin insisted he move on to East at the end of first quarter, I was talking to the boys about a winter sport. I explained that since neither of them had ever been on a mat -- and most of their opponents would have been wrestling for years -- that they would have to work hard. But I assured them that they had the physique and the determination to be successful wrestlers. They reluctantly agreed to give it a try and within weeks had the varsity spots in their respective weight classes as seventh graders.
Ricardo and Leon are two of strongest, kindest, most compliant young men of character that I have ever met. They are first to do their chores and dishes when it is their turn. They seldom say an unkind word to their sometimes annoying siblings with special needs. They are loving and affectionate sons, patient and kind brothers, and excellent role models for people younger than them.
As pointed out in the movie Blindside.... sometimes it's worth taking a chance on an older child. The estimate is 143,000,000 orphans worldwide spend at least 10 years in orphanages or foster care. Currently 130,000 children of these are waiting in U.S. foster care for permanent homes. A large percentage of them of them are over the age of ten.
So, sir, that is the rest of the story. The two Fletcher wrestlers grew up far away from the mat. But now they are here, and their parents couldn't be more proud. Sometimes it pays to take a chance and do something that others don't understand.
They have given me permission to share their stories with you because they hope that more people will take a chance and adopt older kids. We'd be happy to tell you more.
Bart and Claudia Flethcer