'We just fell in love with him ... and that was it. '
Colorado QB John Dutton was just trying to make a difference. He did in one little boy's life.
DENVER -- Miki Dutton smiled as he stepped off the plane on U.S. soil for the first time. His two new brothers, whom he'd never met, ran up to give him a giant hug.
Miki was finally home.
John Dutton, quarterback for the Colorado Crush of the Arena Football League, and his wife, Terina, adopted the 10-year-old Ethiopian native from an orphanage in Holeta, Ethiopia.
Just five days after leaving Ethiopia, Miki was in a luxury suite at the Pepsi Center watching his new father play arena football.
The Duttons first set eyes on Miki during a 10-day trip to the east African nation as part of a mission program sponsored by the Colorado Community Church and the Duttons' charitable organization, the Dutton Foundation.
They traveled to the orphanage in Holeta about an hour south of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's capital city, not knowing quite what to expect.
The handful of brick-and-clay, shack-sized buildings that comprised the orphanage were home to 10 small children and a few staff. The floors were made of concrete and clay; the kitchen consisted of a pot burning on a clay stove and the toilet was a hole in the floor.
The Dutton Foundation is seeking to make the orphanage much more, the quarterback said. That was the initial reason he, his wife and three others made the 18-hour flight.
The orphanage was underdeveloped, but the conditions were still better than those found in the rest of the small city of about 20,000, Terina Dutton said.
The children embraced Terina and John -- who at 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, towered above them -- treating them as if they were natives of the Ethiopia.
Their decision to adopt was almost on a whim.
"We went over there not even thinking about adoption," John Dutton said. "Then as the week was going on, Terina asked me, 'So who would you take home, hypothetically?' I didn't want to say anything to sway her, but it ended up both of us were thinking Miki."
The Duttons have two boys of their own -- Zachary, 5, and Drew, 2. Terina Dutton always wanted a girl but while they were in Holeta, it didn't matter. Miki had a politeness, caring and infectious smile that was too hard to resist.
"We knew there'd be extra challenges just because of what he's been through. When you bring on an infant, you pretty much get to raise him from the beginning," she said. "An 11-year-old boy, there's obviously different challenges. But we're ready."
About a week after the Duttons left in July, Miki was told they wanted to adopt him. The Duttons wanted to bring him to the United States in time for Christmas, but bureaucratic red tape delayed the process.
"We were so anxious, because usually with adoption, you start the process and give a criteria. Like, I want a 2- to 4-year-old boy from this country," John Dutton said. "But we knew Miki already. And Miki knew from July. Once he can communicate, I'm sure he'll tell you it was a long process for him."
The communication is one thing that will come steadily, Terina Dutton said.
The Duttons don't speak in full sentences with Miki yet but they use one word to get across their meaning, such "OK?" for "are you OK?"
And, well, Miki has two little brothers with endless amounts of energy. "He's already understanding a lot," Terina Dutton said.
"Our boys make it easy," John Dutton added. "I don't think they understand that he doesn't understand them, so they're just talking nonstop."
On a recent weekday afternoon, Miki, Zachary and Drew came sprinting down the stairs at their home. Miki, who always seemed to be smiling, ran around the house with the same intensity as his younger brothers.
As for the introduction to American culture, Miki saw his new father once on the football field in a DVD of Crush action that the Duttons showed him when they arrived to pick him up.
Now that he's in Denver, Miki will get a chance to see his father at work.
"I think he understands (what Dutton does for a living), but just the noise, watching people get hit, thrown against the wall, that's gonna be another big shock to him," John Dutton said with a smile. "It'll be interesting to see what he says afterward."
If Miki enjoys the game as much as he has everything else during his week in Denver, John Dutton couldn't have asked for a better Father's Day gift.
"Before we left, the people kept telling us, he was so happy," John Dutton said. "We just fell in love with him when we were there and that was it."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press