KNOXVILLE (WATE) - University of Tennessee Athletics Director Mike Hamilton and his wife, Beth, have a lot of ties to a country 7,500 miles from Knoxville.
Mike Hamilton not only oversees a multi-million dollar business with a dedicated Vols fan base, he's also one of the more prominent board members of a Nashville-based organization called Blood Water Mission.
Its goal is to empower communities to work together against the HIV/AIDS and water crises in Africa.
Another tie between Hamilton and Africa is the three children he and Beth adopted from Ethiopia.
The couple first adopted Madison from North Carolina 14 years ago and then Mathew was adopted in Tennessee three years later.
The Hamiltons thought their family was complete, but it turned out that it wasn't. "My belief is that certain people are called to certain things and certain people are prepared for certain things," Beth Hamilton said.
In this case, that certain thing was adopting three siblings: Nate, the fiery, caring one, Kiyah, who's full of zest and personality, and two-year-old Kalu, who Mike Hamilton calls "our fireball."
Their oldest daughter, Madison, has grown especially fond of Kalu, but that doesn't mean it's all smiles in the Hamilton home.
"It's been a challenge for all seven of us. We've chosen to be thrown together and it's changing us in a good way, and it's not always easy," Beth Hamilton admitted.
But she adds, "The risk is definitely worth the reward."
"The joy we see in their eyes, the joy they bring to our eyes and the opportunity to watch them grow into adults and change our family has had a huge impact on our lives," Mike Hamilton said.
For Mike and Beth, rescuing their children from an uncertain future is not enough.
Through their association with an organization called Show Hope, they helped raise money in 2010 for adoption grants for families.
Show Hope is a non-profit that mobilizes people and communities to meet the needs of orphans. It's based in Franklin, Tennessee.
That work helped lead them to Blood Water Mission. "I'm compelled to be part of it because we experienced the effects of those ills in Africa. Our children are AIDs orphans, and so to have the ability to affect that country on the continent in some small way was something we wanted to attach ourselves to," Mike Hamilton said.
You can see and read about my travels with Mike Hamilton to Kenya and Rwanda to witness the work of Blood Water Mission by friending me on Facebook or following me on Twitter.
Of course, 6 News will post more reports about the trip as well.