Hannah and Marissa Brandt were recently seen playing for Team USA and Team Korea in Pyeongchang at the 2018 Olympics. The Brandt sisters have a special connection to adoption and are planning—with your help—to bring 1,500 adopted and foster youth out to the ballgame on May 25th. Partnering up with the Mixed Roots Foundation, the Brandt sisters are looking to knock one out of the park at the 6th Annual Los Angeles Dodgers Adoptee Night.
Marissa Brandt was adopted at four months old from Seoul, South Korea. Her birth mother was unmarried when she became pregnant and most likely faced social discrimination and financial hardship. Knowing adoption would give her daughter a better life, she made the selfless decision to place Marissa and give her and her future family a chance at a lifetime of happiness.
Marissa’s adoptive parents assumed they would never have children but were thrilled to learn of a baby girl in Korea in need of a forever family. After bringing Marissa home, their joy doubled when biological child, Hannah, arrived only seven months later! With two miraculous bundles of joy, they started the family they always hoped they’d have. Although their lives started on opposite ends of the world, nothing could stop these sisters from becoming the best of friends
When asked what it was like to grow up with an adopted sister, Hannah said, “I never really thought about it. She was just always my sister … I never thought she really looked too much different than me.” The two were inseparable as their parents supported them through gymnastics, dance, figure skating, and hockey. Marissa and Hannah emphasized that their parents always supported and encouraged them to follow their dreams and embrace their roots.
To help the girls learn about Marissa’s background, their parents enrolled them in Korean culture camp. Hannah loved going, but Marissa felt uncomfortable even saying she was Korean. All she wanted to do was fit in and blend in—she felt perfectly fine avoiding her heritage. Marissa admitted, “Nothing was really… that hard… but I definitely had a moment where I didn’t really know my identity or where I fit in.” Instead of dwelling on her past, Marissa moved forward with her sister in the one thing she did identify with: hockey.
At the end of her college years on the ice, Marissa was invited to South Korea to try out for the national Women’s Hockey team—and made it. When it came time to choose a name for her jersey, she was reminded of the one and only connection she did have to Korea, the name her birth mother had given her: Park Yoon-Jung. Marissa explained, “My one tie to my Korean roots was my Korean name given to me by my birth mother, and that was something that was special to me.” It was then that Marissa started discovering her identity.
Like Marissa, many people in the adoption community have questioned their identity. Trying to balance what seems like a confusing double-life is overwhelming. But for Marissa, moving to Korea cleared things up and led her to a defining moment at the 2017 world championships:
“We had just won the gold medal, and I remember we were standing on the blue line, hand-in-hand with each other, and the Korean flag was being raised … a light turned on in my head that I was finally proud to be Korean… from then on I’ve been completely proud to represent my birth country. [I'm] not ashamed anymore”
Every adoption or child in foster care has a unique story. Many children feel they are the only ones in their schools or neighborhoods who have been rejected by or separated from their families. Bringing children together may help them, as Marissa says, “[see] someone else who feels the same way [they] do, something [they] can relate to, maybe on a deeper level than just anybody.” A support system will help them to know that they don’t have to feel like outcasts. Like Marissa, many of these children are ashamed of their origins and have a hard time adjusting to their new lives.
Hannah and Marissa encourage all adopted and foster youth to embrace their origins. Based off of their experiences in sports and Marissa’s light bulb moment at the world championships, they believe that the building of a community will help children accept their harsh circumstances. Without a dynamic, like-minded support system, these kids will lack the community they so desperately need as they shed their shame and shake their heartache.
Recognizing the need for post-adoption resources, Holly Choon Hyang Bachman, Founder and President of the Mixed Roots Foundation, wants people to know, “[this is] a real cause, and if we can bring the numbers out, we will not only give kids an opportunity to go to a baseball game, but we will raise the awareness that is so needed.” She encourages people to join forces and share stories, “whether you are an adoptive parent, adoptee, foster youth … we can all make a difference.”
Those who wish to support adopted and foster youth can help Marissa and Hannah in reaching their goal of sending 1,500 kids to the LA Dodgers game. For only $25, you can send one child to the game to start connecting with others like them. Just 400 tickets away from their goal, the Brandt sisters are asking for your help by donating to Team Marissa and Hannah on their Crowdrise donation page or purchasing tickets here.
The Brandt sisters encourage everyone to reach out, donate, and share their experiences. “There’s no limit [to] the people we can reach…” says Marissa. Hannah agrees, “Everyone can make a difference in some way.”
Marissa and Hannah will be setting aside their hockey sticks and picking up their baseball mitts to throw the first pitch at the LA Dodgers game on May 25th after a Pregame VIP Meet and Greet. The sisters will also be supporting the San Francisco Giants and Minnesota Twins Adoptee Nights in the coming months.