But he decided to take his love of kids one step further by founding Ele Lambra, a nonprofit that aids children aging out of orphanages in the Republic of Georgia. Ele Lambra, which means “he remembers” in Portuguese. In the mid-1980s while living in Brazil, where Portuguese is the official language, Simmons first saw poverty.
In June Simmons published “To Sing Frogs,” a memoir chronicling his experiences in adopting children, including four siblings from Russia: Emily, 22, Annie, 21, Sarah, 13, and Celeste, 11. The Simmonses also have three biological children: Mike, 24, Cory, 22, Steve, 20, and adopted Jack, 18, who has Down syndrome, and Emily, 22. Emily was adopted from Russia and Jack from America.
Simmons, who lives in Kamas, Utah, was in Atlanta last week to promote his book as part of a 17-city tour.
“When I got into Russia and saw these kids, I realized I needed to do something and could afford with my business to give back,” Simmons said of Ele Lambra. “It started about a year ago. There was a lot of sabre rattling between Russia and the U.S., and some of the U.S. nonprofits in Russia were shut down. There was a woman who had helped us in the past who was from Tbilisi, Georgia. I thought we could help some kids who were aging out of orphanages in Georgia.
“The Republic of Georgia gives kids scholarships to college. … Now they’re trying to help any way they can. The unemployment rate is 30 percent there. We set up an after-school program that helps them two nights a week on a private school property. The kids get a hot meal. They study Georgia literature and language, English, mathematics and health and personal hygiene. They also have access two nights a week to a psychologist.”
In June Simmons resigned as CEO of White Knight Fluid Handling, the Kamas-based company he and his brothers, Tom and David, co-founded. It specializes in the production of pumps for semi-conductors that are shipped all over the world. Simmons said his salary comes not from Ele Lambra but from White Knight.
In 2007 he published “The Marvelous Journey Home,” an award-winning novel based on his experiences with adoption. That book spurred “To Sing Frogs.”
“As it got out there [more widely read],” Simmons said of the first book, “I heard from people who wanted to hear the real story.
“All these incredible things happened after the first book came out. [‘To Sing Frogs’] is a very honest story. There’s a lot of good and a lot of bad. But it’s also how it affected me. You’ve got a rich, cynical businessman who can spend as much money as he wants, but it’s really about these kids, and they all need families. There are kids in Russia who need families, but there are also kids here in America and in Africa who need families, too.”
He said he has a lot of fans in metro Atlanta and plans to visit the city more often in the future.
“I’ve got a lot of followers on Facebook here,” said Simmons, who has more than 100,000 fans worldwide on the website. “There seems to be a lot of interest from people here, in the adoption of kids in [the Republic of] Georgia.”
He had some advice for couples considering adoption.
“I watch parents and I was one of those who wanted a new baby in a pink blanket and pretended they didn’t come from [another country],” Simmons said. “I want people to understand the older children who want parents are more tired of waiting for a family than the parents are tired of waiting for a baby. I want them to reconsider and adopt a 5-year-old, a 3-year-old or a 10-year-old.”
Simmons’ books are available on www.barnesandnoble.com and www.amazon.com.