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Heart and Seoul
Rick Reilly
February 27, 2006
Olympic medals can lead to riches, fame or a new girlfriend. They can lead to a job, a life or an appearance on the Today show. But Toby Dawson hopes his leads to something else--his birth parents.
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February 27, 2006

Heart And Seoul

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Olympic medals can lead to riches, fame or a new girlfriend. They can lead to a job, a life or an appearance on the Today show. But Toby Dawson hopes his leads to something else--his birth parents.

Left on the front stoop of a police station as a toddler and then placed in an orphanage in Seoul, Toby was adopted at age three by two Vail ski instructors, Deb and Mike Dawson. They had him skiing by four. He was beating them down the mountain by nine.

In those days he never thought about being the only Asian kid in powder-white Vail. Never wondered who his blood parents might be. Never wanted to know, even though his brother, K.C.--also adopted--flew to Seoul 10 years ago and met his. Toby hated hearing about that meeting. The man in Korea wanted K.C. to call him father. Nuh-uh. No way.

Whether it was fear of the unknown or love of his adopted parents, Dawson showed no curiosity about the subject. Didn't ever go by his Korean middle name--Soo Chul. Complained when his parents dragged him to Korean Heritage Camp. Didn't want to be anything other than "a blond-haired, blue-eyed regular American kid," he says. "All I cared about was skiing."

Problem was, Toby (Awesome) Dawson got too good. Started winning World Cup events in the freestyle moguls. Pretty soon the planet started noticing him. And people sure as hell noticed he wasn't blond-haired and blue-eyed.

I'm your father, Koreans e-mailed. I'm your mother. I'm your cousin.

And Dawson's response was always the same: Get bent. "I think he was blocking it out," says Deb. "Which was too bad. Because his dream was the Olympics, but mine was that the Olympics would be how he'd find his parents."

Then something happened. Asked to return to the Korean Heritage Camp he so hated as a kid, he went and discovered something within himself. Suddenly he wanted to know who he was. "There was such a buzz with the kids there," he recalls. "A lot of them had already found their birth parents. Some of the stories were amazing."

One of the stories he heard was my daughter's.

We adopted Rae at four months, and she was the anti-Toby. She thought constantly about her birth mother, who had to be a princess. Or a movie star.

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