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A Special Day of Kim Pegula

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We receive about 6,000 e-mails from adoptees each year and getting one is always an exciting and meaningful part of the day. On a sizzling day in August last year, we received an e-mail from an adoptee as usual. She said that on the day she would turn 50 her oldest daughter would play in a tennis tournament which would take place in her motherland Korea and that her whole family would visit Korea for the first time. As we could see her happy life only with the few sentences, we felt compelled to make the visit as meaningful as possible.

A five-year-old girl was found in front of a police station in Noryangjin, Seoul, in the early 1970s when Korea's rapid development just started. She had no records or guardians so that she was accepted by a nearby orphanage and given a name called Kim, Sook-heui along with an assumed birth date. They waited for someone to come and claim her but nobody did for several months. After a while, Sook-heui was adopted by an American family in New York and 45 years later she came back to her motherland as a woman named Kim Pegula. She visited the office of Post Adoption Services Center for Adoptive Families along with her beloved husband, her tennis player daughter and two other daughters, her adoptive father and her four best friends.

One of the most difficult part of a social worker's job is to meet adoptees who had been abandoned. We can give them no information on their biological family and only few explanations on why they were adopted. Kim surprised us, however, when we expected questions on her adoption and worried about her response to our insufficient answers. She simply said, "Thank you. I'm blessed." It blew our mind when she told us that the family she met and the opportunities she got thanks to the adoption have presented her a blessed life. 

Kim's silver-haired father showed us the pictures he took when his family first met her precious adoptive daughter at JFK International Airport in 1974. Although the pictures were worn now 50 years later, he could not still hide the happiness when he told us that he remembered everything that happened that day. Kim's adoptive parents already had two biological sons when they adopted their youngest daughter from Korea. Kim's older brothers were sorry for not joining this trip but asked their father to deliver a message to HCS. They said, "Thank you so much for sending us our little sister Kim. It has been the greatest happiness to our family." All of us were moved to tears, literally everyone including Kim who were listening to her father say the words, her father who was delivering the message, her husband and me

Asked about how she met her husband Terrence Pegula, Kim smiled a little and said that they accidentally met at a restaurant in New York and ended up getting married. Terrence started a natural gas company which has grown up to be a major one with the support of his wife and made him a billionaire with 4 billion dollars worth of assets. Then Terrence sold his company, went for his dream and bought a professional football team Buffalo Bills. Kim and Terrence fulfilled their dreams of becoming co-owners of a National Football League (NFL) team after competing against then real-estate mogul Donald Trump, the current president of the U.S. Kim had been in the spotlight in the U.S. for some time for being the first Asian American owner of a NFL team. She was ranked the 424th richest person in the world by Forbes and now works as the president of Pegula Sports and Entertainment.

We handed Kim over the picture of five-year-old Sookhee that we kept in her file, and 50-year-old Sook-hee took a picture with the little Sook-hee's photo in her hand in her motherland which she visited half a century later. Kim and her family looked through her adoption document at HCS office, visited the orphanage she stayed as a little girl, met Korean fans of Buffalo Bills and went back home in America.

Having lived a life like a movie, Kim was absolutely modest, warm-hearted and appreciative person. We hope that her life would show everyone that finding a family for children without one is the best gift for them as she said.