Beth Laitkep’s dying wish before she succumbed to breast cancer on May 19 was to keep her six children together. Longtime high school friend Stephanie Culley granted her that wish and last week Culley and her husband gained full custody of the children.
Prior to Laitkep’s death, the 39-year-old discussed the possibility of her children living with Culley in order to not split them up into different households. It was a tough decision for Culley and her husband, as they have three children of their own. Culley said she sought prayer to make a final decision, a decision she now says feels like a huge victory.
“We started dancing as soon as the judge made his ruling,” Culley of Alton, Virginia, told ABC News. “It was like winning the Super Bowl for us. It was an amazing day.”
“A final custody order was entered yesterday awarding custody of Beth Laitkep’s six children to Stephanie and Donnie Culley,” Culley’s attorney Carol B. Gravitt confirmed.
It was July 19 when Culley and her husband gained full custody of Beth’s six children—Will, 15, Selena, 14, Jaxson, 12, Dallas, 10, Lily, 5, and Ace, 2—who are now joining the couple’s three children—Cole, 10, Hayden, 6 and Calen, 2.
The new mother to nine children admitted she could never have seen this coming.
“My husband and I laugh because we didn’t really plan on having any kids and here are with nine.” She also said she has been fearful, but is optimistic of the future.
“When I first realized that I was going to do this I was scared to death, but as we walked this journey, it’s so much better than anything I had in my head,” she said.
“It’s just amazing to watch all these kids interact and love each other so much. Don’t get me wrong, they have days where they want to fight, but most days they get along. I just hope they will learn from us and be positive influences in society. That’s our goal.”
Laitkep’s nurse, Patti Nami, has great faith in Culley, who says the custody win is something Beth would have been so happy about.
“I think [Culley] is an angel. She’s the most amazing young woman to be taking on this responsibility with such eagerness and love. When I see the children with her, I’m just extremely happy,” she told ABC.
A GoFundMe page was established to offer financial assistance to the family. So far, it has raised more than $72,000.