Cincinnati Bengals Head Athletic Trainer Helps Organize Annual Event the International Adoption Center at Cincinnati Children’s

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Cincinnati Bengals Head Athletic Trainer Paul Sparling and his wife Karen are teaming up with the International Adoption Center (IAC) at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center as organizers of the ninth annual Passport to Forever event on Saturday Nov. 7.

The multi-cultural celebration and dinner, which supports the IAC, kicks off at 6:30 p.m. in the Oscar Center at Jungle Jim’s International Market. Proceeds will help support the IAC and this year will be used to add a school advocate to its team.

“The school advocate will be available to families to accompany them to school meetings, educate school personnel about international adoption and advocate for special education,” said Irina Parkins, IAC staff psychologist. “School professionals, such as teachers, school psychologists and special education personnel, do not often know about the risk factors (such as malnutrition and neglect) associated with international adoption and their impact on cognitive and behavioral functioning. The school advocate will help address this issue.”

The celebration at Jungle Jim’s honors internationally adopted children from all over the world and their families. The evening, which is themed, “Passport to the Pacific Islands,” will include a cocktail reception, both silent and live auctions, dinner and entertainment with luau activities and a children’s fashion show.

The IAC’s mission is near and dear to the Sparlings, as they turned to Mary Allen Staat, MD, Director, IAC, for assistance when they adopted two children from Russia. The IAC staff guided them through the pre- and post-adoption process and helped to alleviate their concerns about bringing home 19-month-old Natalie and 11-month-old Kenneth.

Not able to have children after years of trying, Paul and Karen opened their home to Natalie and Kenneth in 2003 and, along with Paul’s daughter Ashley Marie, have been a family ever since. Dr. Staat and her team of experts examined the children when they first arrived home to assess their medical, developmental and nutritional needs, and the IAC has become part of the Sparling’s extended family, Through the years, the staff members at the IAC have reviewed the children’s dietary needs, monitored their growth and helped the Sparlings address any other concerns that they have had about their children.

Paul and Karen have become big believers in the IAC’s mission over the years, and now they also serve on the center’s advisory board. “Dr. Staat and the IAC were there to guide us and bring our family together,” said Paul. “We are thrilled to be part of an organization that unites children in need of love with families.”

Natalie and Kenneth are doing well and have a bond like natural siblings. They look after one another, although they have different interests. Kenneth loves to follow his dad around and mimic him. Natalie enjoys dance class, gymnastics and spending time with her mom. “We are blessed to be their parents,” said Paul. “The joy of seeing them flourish is priceless. They love their new life and are such happy children.”

Event Highlights

Passport to Forever to benefit the International Adoption Center at Cincinnati Children’s will begin with a cocktail reception and silent auction, leading into dinner, a live auction, and a program featuring The Spirit of the Pacific Islands dance troop who will perform dances from Hawaii, Tahiti, New Zealand and Samoa. Proceeds from this year’s event will help fund the addition of a school advocate to the team, to help address the unique needs of internationally adopted children.

Attendees will enjoy a children’s fashion show with clothing provided by The Children’s Place and modeled by IAC children adopted from around the world.

For more information about Passport to Forever, contact Erin Cohen at or 513-636-0795. Tickets are $75 each or a sponsor table for $1,500.

About The International Adoption Center

The International Adoption Center (IAC) at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, a non-profit organization, exists to uniquely address the health and wellness needs of internationally adopted children, their families and their communities. The IAC examines and evaluates these children for the unique and complex medical, developmental and psychological issues that many international children face.

Since 1999, the IAC has assisted thousands of adoptive families from 47 states and eight countries with their adoption of children born in 45 different countries. The IAC is nationally recognized as a resource for both pre- and post-adoption services and education for families throughout the United States.

About Cincinnati Children’s

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center is one of 10 children’s hospitals in the United States to make the Honor Roll in U.S. News and World Reports 2009-10 Americas Best Children’s Hospitals issue. It is #1 ranked for digestive disorders and is also highly ranked for its expertise in respiratory diseases, cancer, neonatal care, heart care, neurosurgery, diabetes, orthopedics, kidney disorders and urology. One of the three largest children’s hospitals in the U.S., Cincinnati Children’s is affiliated with the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and is one of the top two recipients of pediatric research grants from the National Institutes of Health.

President Barack Obama in June 2009 cited Cincinnati Children’s as an island of excellence in health care. For its achievements in transforming health care, Cincinnati Children’s is one of six U.S. hospitals since 2002 to be awarded the American Hospital Association-McKesson Quest for Quality Prize for leadership and innovation in quality, safety and commitment to patient care. The hospital is a national and international referral center for complex cases. Additional information can be found at

Contact Information

Jane Howie, 513-636-0158,