Courtesy Dawn Nolting
Isaac Pettet-Nolting, left, and Dakotah Zimmer
Every summer, Dawn Nolting buys her 12-year-old son Isaac a pool pass, and drops him off to swim with his friends. In June, Isaac was hanging out, when he met a friend-of-a-friend, 13-year-old Dakotah Zimmer. The kids at the pool in Washington, Mo., noticed that Isaac and Dakotah looked an awful lot alike – they have the same hands, the same feet, the same nose, the same haircut –- they even walk alike.
Someone asked if they were brothers. Dakotah said he had a brother he had never met who was adopted by a woman named Dawn. “That’s my mom’s name,” Isaac said.
That night, Isaac sat on the edge of his mom’s bed, and asked if they could talk.
“He looked at me with his big, black eyes and asked, ‘Mom, am I adopted?’” recalls Dawn, 42, a manager at a dry-cleaning company. “I said, ‘What makes you think that?’ And he said, ‘Because I think I found my brother.’”
Dawn told her son it was true and they both burst into tears.
“I just cried and cried and cried,” Isaac tells TODAY.com. “I was so happy that I had a brother. I always asked for one.”
Dawn says she had been trying to work up the courage to tell Isaac he was adopted. She had spoken to friends and her pastor wondering: when is the right time? She knew she was going to have to tell him soon, because next year the boys will be at the same school. But, she hadn’t found the right words to explain their story.
When Isaac was a newborn, Dawn was on her way to dinner with her ex-husband and their then 11-year-old daughter, Krystyn. They ran into a friend of Dawn’s ex who invited them to come meet his girlfriend and new baby boy.
Isaac’s biological mother was a teenage mom with a 1-year-old son and a newborn boy. “She just looked overwhelmed,” Dawn says. “My motherly instincts kicked in. I said, ‘You need a break.’”
Dawn understands what the mom was going through – she was a single mother herself when she was 19. “I know the struggles, I know the heartache,” she says. Dawn offered to take the 9-day-old baby boy home with her.
“She was relieved,” Dawn remembers. “It was like the world had been lifted.”
A single mom, Dawn wasn’t planning to have another child, but, she immediately fell in love with Isaac.
The biological mother did call and visit often, but never took him home again, Dawn says.
A few months later, Isaac’s biological mother and grandmother visited Dawn and said that the mom was pregnant again. She wanted what was best for her son, and asked if Dawn would adopt Isaac. She did. The adoption was finalized when he was 18 months old.
Isaac’s biological mother died in the spring of 2007 – and within a year, his biological father died too. His older brother Dakotah and 10-year-old sister, Ashley, now live with their maternal grandmother, Debi Bay in Augusta, Mo. Their grandmother always told them they had a brother – she didn’t keep it a secret.
After the boys met, Dawn called their grandmother and arranged for them to hang out.
“I knew it was gonna happen sooner or later,” says Debi Bay, 56. “It didn’t surprise me that much. I’m just surprised the way they ran into each other. I’m glad they got to meet.”
The boys celebrated their birthdays together this fall. Now the boys spend weekends sleeping over, playing Xbox, riding bikes and skateboarding.
“You can just tell they’re brothers,” Dawn says. “It’s the strongest bond that I’ve ever seen. It’s like they were never separated. For being apart for 10 years and 20 minutes away, they picked up right where they left off.”
Isaac Nolting, 12, and Dakotah Zimmer, 13, were horsing around at a swimming pool when a friend remarked they looked like brothers. That night, Isaac asked his mother if he was adopted and discovered that Dakotah is, in fact, his older brother. NBC's Kerry Sanders reports on the unlikely reunion.
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