CHARLESTON (WCIA) — Life looks a whole lot different these days for Matt and Kari Bollant — and it’s exactly where they feel called to be. The 50-year old Eastern Illinois women’s basketball coach and his wife adopted three girls from Peru in January.
13-year old Marita is the oldest, Merari is 11, and Flor is the youngest, she’s 9. The sisters are still learning English after living in an orphanage outside Trujillo for six years before the Bollant’s adopted them, an answered prayer for all.
“We saw a picture of them and really felt called to go get these three,” says Matt.
“Instantly started crying and we knew that’s what the Lord had for us so we just did everything and anything to get to them and bring them home,” says Kari.
Matt and Kari first thought about adopting 15 years ago. The ball got rolling in 2016 when they saw that picture of the girls. Matt was the head coach at Illinois then. Little did they know it would be a five-year process.
“So we kind of learned that God’s timing is a little bit better than ours,” says Matt.
After Bollant was let go at Illinois in March 2017, a decision had to be made. If they moved out of state, it would only further delay the adoption process.
“We felt really called to do it so it didn’t really matter what road block would come,” says Matt. “‘We’ll work through this, we’ll get to the next step.'”
That’s when Eastern Illinois called and Bollant was up front from the start. “I said, ‘Hey just to let you know, if I do get the job, we’re in the process of adopting sometime I’m going to have to go to Lima.”
The thing Bollant didn’t know is that he would make that trip during the season, and in the middle of a pandemic. Matt was back and forth to Peru from November to January, spending a total of five weeks in South America, but only missing four games. Kari spent three months with the girls before they could come to the United States. The whole finally arrived in Charleston on January 24th.
“Unbelievable really,” says Kari. “We’re so grateful and they’re teaching us so much so it’s really a blessing both ways.”
It’s a new chapter in the Bollant’s 27 years of marriage. Their biological daughters Abi and Regan are out of the house, 10 years older than their new sisters. But Matt and Kari have a whole team surrounding them with love.
“Our players love our daughters, you know it’s one of the benefits of being a coach and this year’s team is as good as any that I’ve had,” says Bollant.
“We see them quite a bit,” says Eastern Illinois forward Abby Wahl. “They came to our team camps, we got to spend time there and then we go to coach’s for dinner and they’re always there so getting to play with them and know them is really cool.”
Bollant admits it’s not always easy — being a Division I coach and dad of five doesn’t leave him much free time, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Anytime you help somebody else, you feel better,” says Matt. “Just that purpose everyday, that sense of joy you get in helping them, I feel better when I see them growing and doing better.”