Virginia Mom Makes Good on Friend’s Dying Wish and Adopts Her Children
Lifestyle| | By Robin Milling
ABC News, “We started dancing as soon as the judge made his ruling. It was like winning the Super Bowl for us. It was an amazing day.”Friendship can be akin to family, which is what a Virginia mom experienced when her best friend’s dying wish was for her to adopt her children. Stephanie Culley of Alton,Virginia, is now a mother of nine, adding her friends’ six kids to her own. She tells
Culley’s friend Beth Laitkep succumbed to breast cancer much too young on May 19 at the age of 39. She had been diagnosed two years ago, when she was pregnant with her youngest child. Despite fighting the disease with chemotherapy treatments, it had spread to Laitkep’s brain, spinal cord, and nervous system. Opting to stop treatments, she died one month later. The two high school friends had grown extremely close after reuniting when Laitkep moved back to her hometown in Virginia since living in Texas with her six children. Prior to her death, Laitkep requested a final wish from Culley. Culley recalls, “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 discussed the arrangement with her husband who was a bit “like a deer in headlights,” but her three kids sealed the deal with a resounding “yes.” Honoring her request changed the Culley family forever. Two months after Laitkep’s death, on July 19, Culley and her husband Donnie gained full custody of Laitkep’s six children, Will, 15, Selena, 14, Jaxson, 12, Dallas, 10, Lily, 5, and Ace, 2. Along with the couple’s three children, Cole, 10, Hayden, 6 and Calen, 2, they are now an expanded family of nine. Even Laitkep’s nurse practitioner and friend, Patti Nami, thought that Culley made the right choice in adopting her children. She tells pulptastic, “Those children are extremely amazing human beings because of the gift that Beth gave them and the way she raised them. She had a lot to overcome. That’s the part of the story I don’t want people to forget is what Beth did.” And to keep their mother’s memory alive Nami had Build-A-Bears made with Laitkep’s voice for each of the kids. Culley anticipated having a big family but not nine, and admits it’s not always easy. But she hopes to set an example and raise them to become positive influences in society. The public is rallying for Laitkep’s kids as well. A GoFundMe campaign has been set for the children meeting well over their goal of $10,000 with donations going over $67,000 as of press time.