Post Classifieds

From an Orphanage to the Olympics

By Samantha VanSchoick
On October 14, 2011


Sitting back in his chair with both hands gripping his knees, Kenedi Hall explained the kidnapping that changed his life.
"You've seen it in the movies; they put a bag over your face and just drive away. It wasn't like ‘Oh, hi Kenedi Hall, we're taking you here.  It was a whole different traumatic situation."
Hall was explaining the kidnapping his grandmother had to request from a nearby Ethiopian orphanage in hopes that Hall would be adopted so he could have a lifesaving heart surgery.  Hall and his older sister were living with his ailing grandmother because his father was away at war and his mother died when he was two.
"We weren't homeless, but food wasn't guaranteed.  I had to fight for money, I had to literally fight for survival each day."
There was no way Hall's grandmother could pay for the expensive heart surgery to repair a hole in his heart.  The kidnapping was traumatic, but necessary.  
Circumstances at the orphanage were not ideal.  The orphanage housed around 700 children.  Hall shared his bed with up to five other children ranging in ages.
"I was there for three years not knowing if I would be there forever, or if I would be homeless."
Luckily, after an American couple visited the orphanage and learned of Hall's heart condition, they chose to adopt 9-year-old Kenedi and his 11-year-old sister Masay.
"They knew at the orphanage they couldn't split us up.  I couldn't speak English, but my [adoptive] parents clearly knew that if she wasn't going, I wasn't going."
Hall's adoption happened just in time.  Two years after leaving the orphanage, it was burned to the ground. Hall's troubles did not end with the adoption. He still had to face a risky heart surgery that would, doctors suspected, leave him handicapped.
To make matters worse, Hall did not understand any English. "The heart surgery was awful because they didn't have any Ethiopians to talk to me…I thought the family that adopted me was trying to get me killed."   
To his doctors surprise, Hall not only recovered from his surgery but was up and running three weeks later.  The normal recovery time for a patient recovering from heart surgery is three months.
"The doctor didn't think I was going to be athletic.  Now I run 90 miles a week and play ice hockey."
Hall went on to break records nobody thought possible.  At the age of 16, after months of training, he broke his high school's record in the 2-mile by eight seconds, running a 9:57.  "I never let anything hold me back."
18-year-old Hall is now one of the top three runners on Lyndon State's Men's Cross Country team.  He plans to play ice hockey this winter with the Hockey club.  He is also training to be on the Ethiopian Olympic Cross Country Skiing team, returning to Ethiopia in December for training.
Hall's doctor continues to check up on him every three years and is amazed at his active lifestyle.  "I'm on another level that he can't believe."
Hall is a sophomore majoring in human services and hopes to return to Ethiopia after getting his degree.  Hall wants to build better quality orphanages and continue to live up to his motto of never letting anything hold him back.

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