What began as another summer day at the pool turned into a surprising family reunion for two Missouri boys.
In June this year, Isaac Pettet-Nolting, 12, was hanging out at the local pool in Washington, Mo., when he met a friend-of-a-friend, 13-year-old Dakotah Zimmer.
Their mutual friends quickly exclaimed that the boys looked similar enough to be brothers. Zimmer then announced that he indeed had a younger brother he'd never met -- who'd been adopted as an infant more than 10 years ago.
His brother, he said, had been adopted by a woman named Dawn, according to TODAY Moms. Nolting replied, “That’s my mom’s name."
“I could tell because of the nose,” Zimmer told the Missourian, referring to how he knew that his new friend was actually the brother he had never met.
Story continues after the photo:
From left: Ashley, Dakotah and Isaac
Nolting, however, had no idea that he was adopted. That night, he sat at the edge of his mother's bed and told her about the chance encounter at the pool.
“He looked at me with his big, black eyes and asked, ‘Mom, am I adopted?’” recalls Dawn Nolting, 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.’”
“I just didn’t know how to tell him,” she told the Missourian, referring to why she hadn't told Isaac about his adoption earlier. “I never knew when was the best time. I talked with experts and relatives, but never knew when I should do it.”
According to TODAY Moms, Dawn Nolting and her ex-husband used to be friends with Isaac's birth parents. Just a few weeks after he was born, Dawn, her ex-husband, and the boy's birth parents, were all eating dinner at the same restaurant. The boy's birth father then invited Dawn and her ex to his house to meet his new son.
When the couples arrived at the house, Dawn could instantly see that the boy's teenage mother was struggling to take care of the new baby along with her 1-year-old son. She offered to take the 9-day-old baby home with her.
“She just looked overwhelmed,” Dawn said. “My motherly instincts kicked in. I said, ‘You need a break.’”
Dawn had been a single mother when she was 19. “I know the struggles, I know the heartache,” she added.
“She was relieved,” Dawn remembers of her encounter with the young mother. “It was like the world had been lifted.”
“She would call to ask how he was doing.. and she would come visit him at my house,” Dawn recalled to TODAY Moms.
A few months after Dawn took Isaac home with her, his biological mother and grandmother visited Dawn to tell her that she was pregnant again. She asked if Dawn would adopt Isaac. The adoption was finalized when Isaac was 18 months old.
Isaac's biological mother and father both died within a year of each other in 2007. His brother, Dakotah, and 10-year-old sister, Ashley, live with their maternal grandmother, Debi Bay, in Augusta, Mo.
Their grandmother always told the brother and sister of their third sibling who'd been adopted.
The day after the boy's chance encounter at the pool, Dawn called Bay -- the two women hadn’t spoken since Bay came to Dawn’s home with her daughter almost 11 years ago.
The two families planned to finally get together -- next door to the pool where the boys had found each other.
“I knew it was gonna happen sooner or later,” said Bay. “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.”
“You can just tell they’re brothers,” Dawn added. “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.”