Is there anything more inspiring than an everyday hero?
If you’re feeling a bit short on hero stories these days, then look no further than Stephanie Culley, of Alton, Virginia, and her husband, Donnie.
On July 19, the Culley family officially grew from five to 11 after the Culleys adopted the six children of Stephanie’s friend Beth Laitkep who died on May 19 from breast cancer at age 39.
According to ABC News, Laitkep and Culley were high school friends who reconnected after Laitkep moved back to Virginia from Texas. Laitkep was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago while carrying her youngest child. Despite undergoing extensive treatments at Duke University Hospital in Durham, North Carolina, the cancer continued to spread. In April, Laitkep decided to stop receiving treatment. Shortly after, she asked Culley if she would adopt her six children, who range in age from 2-15, after her death.
Culley, already a mom of three, recounted the story to ABC News:
“She said, ‘I know you will do this for me, but can you raise nine kids? Can you take my babies, all of them and keep them together?'” Culley recalled. “I said, ‘I don’t know. I have to pray about this, I have to talk to my husband about this. We discussed it as a family and my kids were the first to say yes. They had gotten really close with [Beth’s] kids. My husband was like a deer in headlights, but he knew that this was what we had to do.”
And so they said “yes,” and this month the Culleys were given final custody of the six Laitkep kids. So far, Culley says the journeys been easier than she expected, with some understandable arguments and hiccups along the way. Culley’s also been facing one particularly sweet struggle.
“I’m a tomboy and she was a girly girl,” Culley told ABC News. “[Beth] was like, ‘You really have to work on keeping the girls dressed girly, bows in their hair, fixing their hair.’ That’s something I really had to work on and I think I’ve done a pretty good job at that.”