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Room For One More

MSBL Member Adopts East European Orphans

By Dennis Eberhart, Long Island MSBL

(From Summer 1995 issue of HardBall Magazine)

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In 1993 New York City fireman Dennis Eberhart joined the Long Island MABL at the age of 43, having last played hardball in 1967. In 1994, he founded the Nassau Yankees in the Central Division of the Long Island MSBL. In 1995, the Treehouse Sports Café of Merrick, Long Island agreed to sponsor the team, which became known as the Treehouse Yankees. His narrative follows.

Eberhart Children
The Eberhart Children in 1995: Top Row (l-r): Ryan, Robert, Dara. Bottom Row (l-r): Joanna and Vanya.

Dennis and Isabel Eberhart
Dennis and Isabel Eberhart

Dennis Eberhart's Story

In 1989, my wife Isabel began to think seriously about adoption, after friends had adopted a Korean girl. I was unreceptive at first. I thought adoption was for childless couples, and we already had three.

After Isabel's sister adopted a Korean child, we happened to watch the nightmarish TV documentary about the children locked away in Romanian orphanages. That clinched it. Our minds were made up.

Welcome to Romania

After contacting an adoption agency which was trying to help Romanian orphans, we were told to wait for a phone call and be ready to travel. In February 1991, I boarded an ancient Tarom airlines 707 bound for the adventure of my life.

I landed in Bucharest, at an airport ringed with anti-aircraft guns and patrolled by armed soldiers. Caiu, an 84-year-old man, and a driver, neigther of whome spoke English, took me to my contact, Yanka Goldstein, a master of seven languages, and a paraplegic.

Yoanna

Goldstein told me there was an orphan baby named Yoanna in his home town, Birlad, in the northeast part of Romania, near the Russian (Moldavan) border. After a maddening series of bureaucratic delays, I set off for Birlad to meet my new 18-month-old daughter, accompanied by Adrian Cepleanu, a young engineer, and his wife Corina.

Traveling 250 miles on icy mountain roads, we arrived in Birlad, where officials handed me the wrong baby. We finally found Yoanna on the fourth floor, standing up in her crib and smiling. It was love at first sight.

Another Snafu

Joanna (we use the English spelling) had been adopted according to Romanian law, but the US Embassy would not grant her a visa, because US Immigration law had changed during the time I was in Romania. nable to resolve the situation at the Embassy, I made arrangements for o1d Caiu and his wife to care for Joanna, and left Bucharest with a broken heart.

Never Give Up

1 just never gave up. After three weeks of shuffling paper with the lNS and considerable expense, I returned to Romania to bring her home. It took Joanna about two months to learn how to eat solid food and walk by herself, but she fit right in. We all love her.

I swore I'd never put myself through another ordeal like that, but in 1993, Isabel's sister showed her a tape of Sasha, aged nine, a Russian orphan she was soon to adopt. Another child on the video, Vanya, a 9-year-old boy, stole Isabel's heart. She pleaded with me to consider adopting again.

One More

To finance the adoption, I had to remortgage the house and ''max'' my credit cards. In Moscow, I met the Police Chief and Fire Chief. We had lunch, exchanged gifts. It taught me a valuable lesson. People are people. There is no difference.

The Russian adoption went smoothly. Today Vanya goes to school, speaks fluent English and is becoming very Americanized. Joanna and Vanya are a blessing to our family. Our three other children love them. They enrich our lives beyond measure.

Dara (17) is graduating high school in June and will attend college in the Fall. Robert ( l5) is a high school freshman, a football quarterback, basketball forward, and a pitcher. Ryan (12) will compete with the Long Island I z-year-old baseball team in the National AAU Tournament in Mississippi in August.

PS: SMALL WORLD

Adrian Cepleanu and his wife Corina, who drove with me from Bucharest to Birlad, are now living ten minutes from us in Long Island.

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