JiaJia almost looks like Superman.
Arms and legs outstretched in flying position, lying stomach down on something resembling a modified skateboard, the 9-year-old uses his impressive upper body strength to gain speed, zooming back and forth across the floor. He even likes to wear a T-shirt with the iconic logo of the American superhero.
"Superman," he says with a smile. "He's so cool."
You almost don't notice JiaJia's legs dragging limply behind until he pulls himself up onto the table and sits down for lunch.
JiaJia's parents abandoned him outside a Chinese fertility clinic when he was just three months old. Botched surgery for spina bifida left him paralyzed from the waist down. The procedure hit his spinal cord nerves, leaving him with no lower body function.
Still, he's learned to swim, attends school when he can, and dutifully changes his own diapers. JiaJia (pronounced "Jah Jah") dreams of someday becoming a police officer.
"He just wants to be the same as other children his age," says Melody Zhang, Associate Director of Children's Hope International in Beijing.
He is just one of 100,000 orphans abandoned by their parents in China.
The adoption agency has been trying to place JiaJia with a family for most of his life. He has touched the hearts of many staff and volunteers at Alenah's Home, a medical foster home in the Chinese capital that currently cares for 23 Chinese children with disabilities.
JiaJia is the oldest and longest-term child at the home. He serves as a de facto big brother to the other kids - pretend boxing, playing with toy cars, and even singing with them.
A family once promised to adopt JiaJia, then backed out. He has watched many of his friends find homes and then move away.
"It was very, very hard to find a family for JiaJia. We waited for nine years," Zhang says. "He waited for nine years."
Earlier this year an American family filed paperwork to adopt JiaJia. They learned of him through fellow church members who adopted his best friend from the same foster home.
"We both just fell in love with the kid," Brian Wilson said. "Nothing stops him. I mean he swims, he boxes, he rolls around on a cart, he does great."
But the Wilson family, from the Kansas City area, has only raised a fraction of the estimated $36,000 in adoption costs. They have a blog and Facebook page documenting the adoption process. After CNN aired JiaJia’s story, donations began pouring in on the family’s GoFundMe page.
As of 9:30 p.m. Tuesday they had raised $33,000.
"One morning I woke up and I felt like God was saying, ‘I've got this. You just do what I'm calling you to do and I've got it,’" Wilson said. "Ever since. Ever since I really felt God’s confirmation about this I never worried about the money."
The Wilson family made the decision in February.
Even if all goes well, it still may be months before JiaJia joins his new family in Missouri. He has Skyped with his future parents, sisters, and grandparents, and he says he wants to be with them "right now."
Waiting even just a few more months feels like an eternity for him. He's been waiting his whole life for a family.
"He's a really strong, resilient child. He does not show his emotions normally. He tries to be a happy kid," Zhang says.
But the pain is evident in his voice as he explains why he wants a family.
"If I have parents," he says. "I can live. I can have a life."
Then the tears start streaming JiaJia’s face, tears that represent his nine years of pain.
Once the Wilson family’s paperwork is complete, they will fly to Beijing to pick up their new son.
If you would like to donate to help bring JiaJia home, click here.
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