What do you do when you’re a single mother and you know you’re dying?
Beth Laitkep was losing her battle with breast cancer and worried about who would look after her children so the only option was to ask her best friend.
'Will you take my babies? Will you do this for me?' she asked Stephanie Culley.
'I told her yes, I would do it in a heartbeat,' Culley replied.
In a measure of true friendship, Stephanie and her husband Donnie agreed to take in the six children - Will 15, Selena, 14, Jaxon, 11, Dallas, 10, Lily, five, and two-year-old toddler Ace. The couple already have three children of their own.
Beth was diagnosed with cancer in 2014 when she was pregnant with her youngest son.
He was delivered early at 30 weeks so that she could begin chemotherapy and while initially it seemed the treatment was working, a year later she received the devastating news that the cancer had spread to her brain and spine.
When her partner left as she was battling the disease, Beth turned to her best friend for help.
'The doctor told me that there was nothing that could be done. That’s when we started talking about the kids,' says Stephanie.
The kids gathered round their mother’s hospital bed to discuss who would look after them after her death.
Recalls Stephanie: 'We said, ‘If you do not get a miracle for mommy, who do you want?’ They all pointed to me. That melted my heart.'
She and her husband wanted the children kept together as family.
Beth died on May 19, aged 39, and her friend now has temporary custody. The couple are seeking permanent custody.
The entire family went to Beth’s funeral in matching outfits. As Stephanie says: 'Those six kids were the six links we were missing from our lives.'