Friday, March 2, 2007

Children light up on New Year

Wood River families unite for cultural festivity

Express Staff Writer

Snap, crackle, pop—the sound of firecrackers filled the air, except it was children running and jumping on a sheet of bubble wrap. Nevertheless, Chinese New Year was celebrated as authentically as possible on Saturday, Feb. 17, with a group of Asian-born children who are being raised in the Wood River Valley.

The party was hosted by the Wood River Families with Children from Asia, which is based on similar support groups around the country. The group, numbering approximately 50, holds various festive events throughout the year to celebrate the children's heritage.

The authentic Chinese multi-course repast was cooked by Yu Lan Yu, a native of China who now lives in Hailey. The multicultural group of children also performed a traditional lion dance and participated in a candle ceremony that symbolizes the coming together of the families.

Nancy Penrose of Ketchum started the group six years ago to help her daughter stay in touch with other children from China. Currently, there are 20 active families who are on the mailing list. Some families are year-round residents, while others are frequent visitors.

"Most of our families have adopted from China, but we have families with children from Korea and Ukraine," said Lois Morris, whose youngest daughter, Cambria, was adopted from China in 2003. "We also have people who were born in China and Singapore who join us in helping to promote and celebrate our children's rich cultural heritage."

Laura Caruso, a Denver transplant, said before moving to the valley she'd wondered how they would continue supporting 10-year-old Kira's "sense of pride in her original culture."

Now a Hailey resident, Caruso was "pleasantly surprised to find such an active group. I was here all of a week before the group found me."

The Wood River Families with Children from Asia also holds a summer picnic and a Christmas party each year.

"We're here to support anyone who's thinking of adoption, either internationally or domestically," Morris said.

She can be reached at

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