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Kat Lutz endeavors to spread adoption awareness and importance, dismantle stigma

Kat Lutz stands between her mom, Lisa Lutz (left), and dad, Stephen Lutz (right). Kat was adopted in 2006 in Russia, after which she moved to San Diego where she grew up. (Courtesy of Lutz family)

By Ira Gorawara

Nov. 28, 2023 2:52 p.m.

This post was updated Nov. 28 at 9:00 p.m.

Drawing a family tree doesn’t typically invoke much thought for an eight-year-old.

However, the elementary school activity triggered intrigue and emotion for Kat Lutz.

When the blonde-haired Kat stands beside her red-haired dad Steve Lutz, one may not fathom that the two are related.

As the freshman defensive specialist/libero for UCLA women’s volleyball attempted to etch out the sinuous lines of her life, it came to the forefront that her storyline bore the marks of a different narrative to her classmates.

“From a very young age, I realized that I was an ambassador for adoption,” Kat said. “Just to show other kids and their families at school that, ‘Hey, adoption stories have a happy ending. It’s not necessarily all the bad things in the media about adoption.’”

After it became known to the Lutz parents that they were unable to have their own biological children, adoption was their immediate recourse. In the span of seven years, Lisa and her husband’s household of two became a five-member ensemble.

Before moving to San Diego, Kat and her elder brothers, Peter and William, were adopted in Russia through Nightlight Christian Adoptions. With just a photo and an introductory paragraph accompanying each child, Lisa and Stephen were resolute in their decision.

“Once you’ve committed to, ‘This is going to be my child,’ the connection just starts building immediately,” Lisa said. “The first time I saw all of them was very emotional. It’s such an easy thing to make them your own and connect.”

Connect.

It’s a word that underwent utter transformation upon reaching Kat’s dictionary – now a phenomenon richer than bloodlines. Deep connections, to Kat, are not confined to a genetic script, but rather woven together by emotions, love and experiences.

And it manifests both at home and on the court. In every spike, every dig and every interaction on the hardwood, Kat brings forth the values obtained from her childhood.

(Shane Yu/Daily Bruin staff)
Kat Lutz looks to receive the ball. The freshman defensive specialist/libero has brought a fresh rendition of what it means to be a teammate in her first year with the program. (Shane Yu/Daily Bruin staff)

“She really is the epitome of a teammate,” said coach Alfee Reft. “She gives her heart to her team, and you can see it when she competes. You can see it in her eyes when she interacts, and that’s a deeper understanding of knowing that we may not be blood, but it doesn’t mean that we’re not deeply connected. … Her connectivity with players is off the charts.”

Throughout her school years, Kat became a champion of adoption, working on grassroots campaigns to recruit foster care and adoptive parents. Setting up tables in front of retail stores and supermarkets, Kat got the ball swinging on discourse regarding adoption resources in her hometown of San Diego.

The echoes of Kat’s outreach efforts extended to the far corners of her community in Del Mar, igniting enthusiasm and support from fostered and adopted children. She broadcasted informational webinars and spread QR codes to foster care site links, prompting passersby to veer off their path to discover more.

“We let people know, ‘Hey, there’s an urgent need for foster and adoptive parents,’” Lisa said. “We had a lot of people that came up and talked to us about that. She (Kat) told people that, ‘Hey, I’m adopted, and you can make a difference in a child’s life too.’ She has this compassion and wants to help other kids find their forever family like she did.”

With a platform bestowed upon Kat as a Division I athlete, the freshman continuously strives to propel adoption awareness into the limelight.

“She’s really staking claim in sharing her story, and that’s important,” Reft said. “What a powerful thing for any kid out there that may feel like they’re less than because they’re adopted – to know that there are people that have done it. So that representation is incredibly important.”

(Courtesy of Lutz family)
Kat Lutz (right) sits beside her brothers, William (left) and Peter Lutz (middle). All three of the Lutz family children were adopted in Russia, and now strive to be adoption proponents in their communities and beyond. (Courtesy of Lutz family)

Upon Lisa’s inaugural visit to Kat’s “Detski Dom” – which translates to “residential child care community” – a marked lack of toys for the kids was striking. She pasted posters outside of cafes to encourage customers to donate to a bicycle fund – an effort that ultimately raised $3,000 in cash to gift bicycles to the children.

On top of Lisa’s initial ambition to furnish the Detski Dom with bicycles, she also pledged musical instruments and speech therapy equipment for children with disabilities. Once Lisa unveiled images of these efforts to Kat, her daughter was stirred by the lives of the children in her community.

And it was instances like this that bred Kat’s unrelenting appreciation and gratitude for her adoption.

“The photos helped her understand what her life would have been like,” Lisa said. “I think the gratefulness is a recurring theme and is why they are so passionate about being open about adoption. They want more kids to be adopted.”

So, in months like November, the official National Adoption Awareness Month, Kat said she strives to stamp out the stigma around adoption.

“Every kid deserves a loving home, and it’s our responsibility to help and support these kids in foster care,” Kat said. “I want to encourage people to be more open-minded about adoption. They have the ability to make a difference in these kids’ lives. … There’s a huge need for foster and adoptive parents, and all walks of life are encouraged to foster and adopt.”

Kat is not capable of tracing the lines of her family tree in the exact same way her peers would.

But on her canvas, a newfound tree was sketched – one that has forever redefined family.

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Ira Gorawara | Assistant Sports editor
Gorawara is a 2023-2024 assistant Sports editor on the men's volleyball, women's volleyball, men's tennis and rowing beats and is a Copy contributor. She was previously a reporter on the men's volleyball and rowing beats. She is also a second-year communication and economics student.
Gorawara is a 2023-2024 assistant Sports editor on the men's volleyball, women's volleyball, men's tennis and rowing beats and is a Copy contributor. She was previously a reporter on the men's volleyball and rowing beats. She is also a second-year communication and economics student.
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