Orphans come to Southern California ready to love a new family

Polliwog Park in Manhattan Beach never meant much to the Avinas, who live four hours away.

But last year, it's where they first met their daughter.

"I knew right away," Toni Avina said.

Johana was a Colombian orphan "on summer vacation" in the United States with a host family. 

Yes, it was a vacation  her first plane ride, first trip to the beach, bike riding, visiting the Santa Monica Pier but her trip had a more pressing, albeit understated, objective. 

Johana was part of Kidsave's Summer Miracles program, which brings orphans from Colombia to the United States for five weeks in hopes of getting them all adopted by the end of the trip.

Each weekend, Kidsave, a nonprofit devoted solely to finding homes for children, holds events across the L.A. area that allow all of the host families and orphans to hang out together and gives potential parents a chance to meet the children in person.

"I call it 'dating,' " said Cheryl Paller, who has hosted several Colombian girls in her Malibu home.

During those weekend mixer type events, the families can play volleyball with the kids, eat pizza, go bowling and watch them interact with others. 

They discover facets of their personality they would never have gleaned from the dossier handed to them by an orphanage.

Berny Polanía

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