Haley Butler, who was left in a basket on a Chinese village roadside as a newborn but was reunited years later with her birth family after being adopted by a Nashville couple, will be making one of her first appearances as Miss Tennessee’s Outstanding Teen 2012 on Saturday at the first Kidz Expo at the Chattanooga Trade and Convention Center.
The 17-year-old rising senior at The Nashville School for the Arts, who won the title last month in Jackson, will be among the entertainers at the Expo which will be headlined by teen star Victoria Justice of the Nickelodeon series “Victorious”. A violinist since the age of three and a singer/songwriter, Miss Butler will perform on the Imagination Stage at 1:35 p.m. She will also be greeting Expo attendees throughout the event which starts at 11 a.m. and concludes at 7 p.m.
Tickets are $7 each, family four-packs are available for $25 and children under three are admitted for free.
Miss Butler will also share her remarkable story of locating her biological parents, three sisters and her younger brother three years ago when she and her adoptive mother Jeannie, who is the executive director of Caring for China’s Orphans, began searching for her birth family in Maanshan which is located in the Eastern province of Anhui. Within minutes of leaving a poster at a local restaurant, an employee remarked that Miss Butler resembled her cousin’s daughter who 14 years earlier had sent her newborn girl to another family. A few hours later, her biological father and her eldest sister arrived at the restaurant and were reunited with the young woman whom they believed had been raised in China instead of Nashville completely unaware that she was left on the streets on Maanshan with her date of birth pinned on her clothes.
The Butlers returned to Nashville with a lock of her father’s hair for DNA testing which resulted in a 99 percent match as they overcame astronomical odds since fewer than 30 of an estimated 59,000 Chinese-American adoptees have successfully located their biological families in a nation that enforces The One Child Policy when the son is frequently chosen over the daughters.
Miss Butler has visited her birth parents, her three biological sisters and younger brother several times since their unexpected reunion. Her biological family had to pay enormous fees to the Chinese government in order to keep their “extra” children. Meanwhile, the Butlers adopted a second child from China, six-year-old Helina and their eldest daughter is Heidi Prine.
The Butlers’ story has been featured in The Los Angeles Times and the Beijing Review. Miss Butler’s odyssey is also the subject of the documentary Somewhere Between which is the story of four Chinese-American teens experiencing their lives in the United States but searching for their biological roots. The documentary has been released in several cities including Los Angeles and Toronto, but will have its Nashville premiere later this summer.
A Senior Cadette Scout, Miss Butler will receive the organization’s highest honor next month when she is presented with The Gold Award. She has already received the Silver and Bronze Awards.
The Butlers and their friends continue to send donated supplies to several Chinese orphanages through their work with Caring for China’s Orphans.
In August, Miss Butler will attempt to become the first Tennessee entrant to win the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen Pageant in Orlando. She will perform the Charlie Daniels’ classic The Devil Went Down to Georgia in the talent competition.
She is undecided about where she will attend college but is leaning towards The University of Tennessee at Knoxville. She wants to become a political analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency and wants to be a voice for abandoned children especially those in China.
Miss Butler’s Chinese name is Zhu Yuan which translated means “destiny ties people together”.
Haley attends the Nashville School for the Arts