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From empty nesters to new parents

By Sarah Hoye, CNN
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Haitian boy fills an empty nest
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Two years ago, Diane and Sam McMutrie decided to adopt 4-year-old Fredo from Haiti
  • The adoption process was sped up after the January quake devastated his orphanage in Port-au-Prince
  • The McMutries' grown daughters played a key role in getting Fredo into their lives
  • They plan to allow Fredo to keep in touch with his family in Haiti

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (CNN) -- Getting a 4-year-old to eat his lunch of pizza and applesauce on a recent Saturday afternoon wasn't exactly what Sam and Diane McMutrie thought they'd be doing after their three kids grew up.

The couple, in their 50s, are raising Fredo after his birth mother in Haiti gave him to an orphanage.

"In so many ways he's changed us," said Diane McMutrie. "I'm glad that he's here, I'm glad that we can make a difference in his life."

"He makes us smile everyday, he makes us laugh, he says the cutest things and he's just now the love of our life."

Fredo arrived in Pittsburgh six months ago -- just a week after the January 12 earthquake devastated his home country and destroyed his orphanage.

The McMutries' daughters played a key role in getting Fredo out of Haiti and into their parents' lives.

About two years ago, daughters Jamie, 30, and Ali, 22, were working at an orphanage in Haiti when they called with an unusual request: They wanted to know if their parents would be willing to adopt Fredo.

It was the beginning of a long process -- and the McMutries didn't go into it with any illusions.

"I don't consider ourselves special," said Sam McMutrie. "We just happen to be adopting a Haitian boy who our daughters love and thought it would be great for us."

Sam McMutrie admitted he needed some convincing, but in the end, both he and Diane knew what they were getting into.

"It changes your life, just like when you're first married," he said. "It's an adjustment, but it's an adjustment you make that's important."

Fredo, 4, has started talking about the January 12 earthquake, say guardians Diane and Sam McMutrie.
Fredo, 4, has started talking about the January 12 earthquake, say guardians Diane and Sam McMutrie.

He and Diane, who have been married for 33 years, look at their grown children as examples of how to live life with passion.

Jamie started traveling to Haiti to volunteer in 2002 and in 2006 the two sisters moved to the island nation to work at Brebis de Saint-Michel de L'Attalaye (BRESMA) orphanage in Port-au-Prince.

"My kids have taught us about what it means to sacrifice and help someone because that's what you're supposed to do," said Sam McMutrie.

"To live your dream means more than anything to me. I'm so thankful that we allowed them to do what they wanted to do."

After the earthquake ravaged Haiti's capital and damaged the BRESMA orphanage beyond repair, Jamie and Ali had 54 kids with nowhere to go.

They refused to leave Haiti without the children in their care.

Back in Pennsylvania, the McMutries and their son, Chad, 27, started calling local politicians pleading for a humanitarian waiver that would allow the children to come to the United States and be placed with other families across the country.

A week after the earthquake, their calls were answered.

Jamie, Ali, and the 54 kids from the orphanage flew to Pittsburgh on a trip organized by Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and U.S. Rep. Jason Altmire.

Among those children, was their new little brother, Fredo.

"We are so excited about our parents' adoption, we really couldn't be happier," Jamie wrote CNN in an e-mail from Haiti.

"Actually getting to be with Fredo and watch him grow and develop, and seeing the love and happiness he has brought to our whole family is so special for us. Our parents are completely in love with him, and he's the best little brother in the world."

It changes your life, just like when you're first married.
--Sam McMutrie, on taking care of Fredo
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The other kids from the orphanage, like Fredo, have been matched with families across the United States and most are in the process of being adopted.

Jamie and Ali have since started their own nonprofit organization, Haitian Orphan Rescue, in hopes of building a new orphanage.

The McMutries, who had expected Fredo to arrive later this year, are still working out the details of the adoption process. That doesn't mean he won't be able to keep his ties to his family in Haiti, they said.

"We already told his mom that when he's old enough and if he wants to go back to Haiti, that we would not hold onto him," Diane McMutrie said. "We'll do what we can for him and then when the time comes, we'll let him make his decisions."

Fredo now speaks English and has recently begun talking about Haiti and the earthquake.

"It just happened one day when we were in the car," said Diane.

"I am so glad he's starting to get it out. He's young enough to be traumatized, but also young enough to work through it."