Our alumni do amazing things. The story of 2006 Kinesiology (Exercise Science) alumnus, Tim Kanallakan and his wife Amber, is just one example. They recently shared their inspiring story of international adoption with the Visalia Times-Delta. They plan to not only give their son, Oliver, a new home – but a new prosthetic hand as well, handmade with love (by Tim)! We wanted to share an excerpt of the story, originally published on May 20, 2015, as written by Dan Kukla of the Visalia Times-Delta.
That’s how Amber Kanallakan described boarding a plane to go pick up Oliver, her newly adopted son, from China.
The moment she had anxiously waited for since she was 7 years old had finally arrived. Instead of excitement she felt terror.
Just imagine how Oliver must have felt.
“It’s kind of like you’re kidnapping him in their minds,” Amber said.
She and her husband Tim walked into the civil affairs office where Oliver’s nanny handed him over. Thirty minutes later they were all on a bus and that was it. Amber remembers seeing families there adopting 3- and 4-year-old kids who “lost their minds” because they knew what was going on.
“It would be like us handing Jane [our 3-year-old daughter] over to a Chinese family and walking away,” Amber said. “It’s traumatic for these kids.”
And what about their other kids? The process could be a different kind of traumatic for Jane and 6-year-old Sawyer. How would they respond? What would this adoption do to their family?
“Things are never going to be the same as soon as we get on this plane,” Tim remembered thinking. “Things will all be different.”
But the Visalia family did get on that plane and on March 26 they did come home with Oliver.
The decision was not merely a matter of risk versus reward. The Kanallakans weren’t merely compelled by some noble notion of providing a home for someone’s abandoned child. Tim and Amber genuinely believed that Oliver was their child. They were compelled to board that plane by the love of a father and mother.
Now they just need to build him a hand.
The Kanallakans didn’t necessarily want to adopt from China. They did, however, have their hearts set on adopting a child with a limb difference.
Adopting a child with special needs cuts the wait time down from years to months. Tim builds prosthetic limbs for a living, equipping his family to accommodate that particular special need.
“The idea of people missing limbs is very comfortable in our house,” Amber said. “We often talk about what kind of leg we would want if we were to lose a leg. We have like body parts in our garage. If anyone is ever missing a leg or an arm they can just come on over.”
Targeting that particular special need through adoption quickly limited their options.
The Foster Care system told them they never see children with a limb difference. The Philippines didn’t have any children like that either. Everyone told them to go to China, a country where adopting was much more expensive and encumbered by more regulations — but also a country where the need was greatest.
As Amber puts it, “God knew where [Oliver] was,” even if that place was never high on their list.
So the Kanallakans applied to adopt from China through Holt International and started a blog called “Dad will build your leg.”
Fortunately for Oliver, they weren’t too particular about which limb dad needed to build. That part was the least of their worries.
Building a Hand
Adoption makes for many beautiful stories, but there is also an element that is, as Amber puts it, “messy” and “hard.”
“Even being adoptable is the result of tremendous loss,” Amber said. “[Oliver] has a mom somewhere who grieves for him. It’s not just a good idea. The closer we got to that, the magnitude of those big things felt heavy. It felt weighty.”
In addition to wanting Oliver to feel wanted and loved, the Kanallakans also hope Oliver knows he is complete with or without a second hand made by his heavenly or earthly father.
Amber describes him as “incredibly mobile.” The hand Tim plans to build him in the next six months will serve more as a toy than anything else — just something with a thumb to wear for an hour a day so he can grasp a rocking horse or teeter totter. A more functional hand will be built when he’s old enough to ride a tricycle or play catch with a baseball glove. Tim estimates Oliver won’t need a mechanical hand until he becomes a teenager, and he can hardly even imagine what the options will be like then.
With all Tim did just to bring Oliver home, you can bet dad will be more than happy to build whatever hand his son needs.