Diane Elliott, a pediatric nurse from Boalsburg, always knew she wanted a big family. When she and her husband, Frank, had trouble conceiving after their marriage in 1992, adoption became the perfect option.
The number of people in their household grew quickly. Eight adoptions later, the Elliotts couldn’t be happier with their eclectic family of 10.
First, the couple adopted an infant, Mary, now 13, from Mobile, Ala. She wasn’t alone long, as Alex, now 10, a baby who was born nearly 3 months premature, arrived a little over a year later. Shortly after Alex’s adoption, the couple adopted their third child, Niki, a six-year-old with eye cancer. Diane, who works full-time as a pediatric nurse, knew that she was the perfect match for Niki, now 16, having survived a battle with eye cancer herself.
After Niki’s adoption, the Elliotts went a few years before considering another child. The family began searching for a 4-year-old boy to accompany Alex after Frank, who was once less-than-enthusiastic with the idea of a big family, suggested that they adopt a few more.
That’s when they found Nyron. Nyron, now 10, suffered third degree burns all over his body as an infant, and as a result, had to have his feet amputated. The couple chose Nyron because they thought they could give him a life that would allow him to do anything he wanted to do. Now-a-days he’s doing just that -- an ever-curious 10-year-old who plays in a wheel chair basketball league with Alex every Wednesday night.
Alex and Nyron aren’t the only ones in the family with a special bond. Niki is attached at the hip with the boy who was adopted next, a now seven-year-old from Serbia who was born with no eyes; little Vladamir.
The Elliotts heard about Vladamir after an orphanage in Serbia emailed them suggesting that they consider adopting another one of their children. That boy was quickly adopted by another family and the Elliotts seemed out of luck. Then the orphanage told them about Vladamir, a 4-year-old who was born with no eyes and had developmental delays. Diane was reluctant. She had never had a blind child, but Frank seemed ready.
“Frank said, ‘You know I’m not afraid,’ and I said, ‘Well I am!’” Diane said.
After some paperwork and a few formalities, Frank was on a flight to Serbia to bring Vladamir home.
Niki sees herself as Vladamir’s caretaker.
“It can get tough sometimes, living with seven other kids, but if I get annoyed with someone or I’m in a bad mood, I can just go into my room or go get Vlad and I’ll be fine,” she said.
The adoption of Nadine and Emmanuel (Manny), two young children from Haiti, came next. That process proved to be more difficult than they had expected, after Haiti was hit with a magnitude 7.0 earthquake in January of 2010. After extra amounts of paperwork and phone calls, Nadine and Manny made it to the Elliotts' house safely, despite being underweight and not speaking a lick of English. Nadine’s twin sister went missing during the earthquake but Diane told the adoption agency that if she is ever returned to the orphanage, she would adopt her “in a heartbeat.”
The Elliotts' newest child, who is their last adoption, is an eight-year-old boy from Bulgaria who suffers from Hydrocephalus, a condition where too much fluid accumulates in the cavities of the brain. Nikolay (Niko) also doesn’t speak much English and hadn’t interacted with children much until he arrived in the Elliott household earlier this year. Despite being the newest addition, he fits right in with the other children, as if he had lived there all along.
It hasn’t been cheap or easy for the Elliotts to create their family of ten, but money isn’t what matters to them. Frank says that it’s the love that they feel in their house and the love that they give to these children that makes them happy.
“I’m 62 years old. My youngest son is four. I’ve got eight kids living at home and I wouldn’t trade places with anybody,” he said.
Making the decision to adopt Vladimir
In this video Diane Elliott describes the moment when she knew Vladimir needed to become a part of the Elliott family, despite the challenge of raising a child who is blind.