The story of an Indiana teen who continues to make local sports headlines despite having prosthetic legs has highlighted the Catholic faith and pro-life devotion of his parents.
Like most American teens, Nik Hoot, a 16 year-old sophomore at Woodlan High School in Woodburn, In., has yet to meet an extra-curricular activity he does not enjoy.
He has played football, baseball, basketball and is now a semi-state qualifier for his weight class in wrestling. He plays drums, trumpet and mellophone and is active in his school’s marching band.
His passion for sports began at an early age when his oldest brother introduced him to football by “teaching” him how to watch Notre Dame games on television. Nik’s first words, his mother Apryl Hoot told CNA Feb. 18 were, “It’s good!”
“I knew sports were going to be a big thing for him right then and there,” she said.
However, unlike most American teens, Nik was born in Russia at 24 weeks after surviving a failed abortion.
Apryl said she’s “gotten complaints” from people asking her how she could talk so openly about her adopted son being an abortion survivor.
In return, she asks them, “How can you not talk about a child who’s survived an abortion attempt?”
“He’s living proof that that’s not a blob of tissue, that’s a living human being in there,” she added, “and your choice is affecting that child.”
The attempt on his life left him missing parts of his legs and without a full set of fingers on both hands.
However, as his mother Apryl put it, there’s not much Nik can’t do, but “feel the mud between his toes.”
When he was fitted with his first pair of prosthetic legs at age two, he had a walker that he used for about two days before he “threw it away” and “started using furniture to cruise with,” Apryl said. In two weeks, “he was running.”
Apryl recalled how in 1997, she and her husband Marvin decided to adopt when they were facing the departure of their youngest “bio-daughter” who was a senior in high school getting ready to leave home for college.
After a “problematic” first adoption, the Hoots still believed they were called to adopt again and received a video featuring children in Russia with children who needed homes.
After watching the video several times, they “kept coming back” to a baby who was born severely premature.
“He was a year old and weighed 11 pounds,” she said.
Although they “wore the video out watching it,” Apryl – who was 46 at the time – could tell there was “something missing” with the baby and “did all the logical talking” to convince herself and Marvin not to adopt him.
“Nobody’s going to think less of me for not adopting a baby at my age,” she told herself, “especially one with no legs.”
Soon after this decision, however, the Hoots were at Sunday Mass when they heard a homily about what it means to be pro-life.
“We have to respect all forms of life,” the priest told the congregation, “even those with disabilities.”
Apryl said she and her family began laughing in response to this call, knowing that God was telling her what she needed to do, all the while other parishioners were probably wondering, “What’s funny about disability?”
Marvin, she said, “had already made the decision and was keeping quiet until I was ready.”
The next morning, she “made the call” and Nik was home nine weeks later, but not without help from some generous strangers and acquaintances.
“Some woman from California” donated the airfare for Apryl and Nik, who would be coming home around Christmas time.
Then, when the judge in Russia who was hearing the adoption case said he would not hear it unless the husband were present, the travel agent Apryl had been working with donated Marvin’s airfare.
Even though they “had no money,” she said all that mattered was that their son “was home.”
“That doesn’t happen on your own,” Apryl noted. “You can’t orchestrate that.”
In addition to their three biological children, the Hoots have six adopted children, five of whom still live at home and four of whom have special needs.
Joey, 17, is from China while Ged, also from China, 15, is legally blind; Mitchell from Hong Kong, 12, was born with 16 birth defects; and their so-called “little diva” Emmalee from China, 9, was born with no femurs.
Admittedly, adoption, especially of children with special needs, has posed challenges for the Hoots, but, “that’s just the way it goes.”
Regardless of the challenges, questions and hardships, “whatever sacrifices we’ve made have been worth it,” Apryl said.
Most importantly, their children have revealed the Gospel passage of Matt. 25:40, “Whatsoever you did for the least of these, you have done unto me.”
To parents who are considering adoption but are hesitant, Apryl offered the advice to “Listen to your heart and God will tell you what to do.”
“These special kids will give you more than you could ever dream of,” Apryl said, “whatever you do for them, you will get back multi-fold.”