'Gun' leaves behind second family

Monday, August 3, 2009
Rotary Youth Exchange Student Wasawat "Gun" Wanichwiriyakit stands with "adopted" sisters Sydney (standing) and Zoey Doan.

GREENCASTLE -- When Thai exchange student Wasawat "Gun" Wanichwiriyakit said goodbye to Greencastle last Friday, he left more than a temporary home.

He left a group of people he had come to regard as family.

Gun, 17, spent the last year in Greencastle, the last seven months of which were with Roger and Amy Doan and their two daughter, Sydney, 6, and Zoey 1. The third of four children, Gun spent his time with the Doans with something he's never had before -- two little sisters.

Asked about his time with the family, Gun had few words, but those said it all.

"I love it," he said.

The native of Chuntaburi, Thailand entered the Rotary Youth Exchange Program at the urging of his parents, who encouraged him to be immersed in a new culture and language.

"My parents have a business, and they wanted me to move around and learn to speak English," Gun said.

As a senior at Greencastle High School, the English did not come easy to Gun at first, but he improved daily.

"It was tough at first. For three months, it was hard from me," he said.

He didn't limit his new experiences to the classroom, either, as he was active on two sports teams. He joined the Tiger Sharks swim team and golfed for GHS, "but not very well," by his own grinning admission.

Perhaps his most successful new endeavor, though, was in choir, where he earned some recognition.

"He had the most success with choir," Roger said. "He came home with a few medals from some of the competitions they went to. Most of them came in the barbershop quartet."

But no singing, swimming or golfing has compared to Gun's time with Sydney and Zoey. The two found an immediate kinship with their adopted brother. Gun has also loved it, taking to the younger siblings the way few "real" brothers would

"It's kept me busy," he said.

"He took to them right away, and they took to him right away. There was no awkwardness or anything. They were best friends right from the get go," Roger said. "Both of them are going to have a real hard time when he leaves. They've become really attached to him.

"We come home and I've got Zoey in the car, and she'll run up to Gun with open arms and hug him just like he was an older brother. It was just a seamless transition," Roger added.

A comment from Sydney said it all about Gun, though.

"I wish Gun could be my real brother," she said.

With his return to Thailand, Gun has lots of memories to take with him. He has GHS and his activities there. He has a trip to Washington, D.C. and Virginia Beach. He has memories of his very first snowfall.

But mostly, he has memories of his friends in Greencastle, and his friends have their memories of him.

"It just seems like a lot of people know Gun and a lot of people appreciate Gun for the funny, charismatic kid he is," Roger said.

"It's like the best experience I've ever had," Gun said. "I'll miss the kids, Roger and Amy and my friends at school."

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: