RD on TV: Gracie’s Choice

Imagine growing up with a neglectful, drug-addicted mother and three brothers who are about to be scattered to foster homes. This teenage hero found a way to keep them together: Adopt them.

When Reader’s Digest ran their story in 2000, hundreds of you sent donations to help this fledgling family stay on its feet. Since then television viewers were able to watch the brothers’ lives unfold in the Lifetime movie Gracie’s Choice, based in part on their story.

Here is the original article that inspired so many generous readers:

It was nearly midnight by the time 19-year-old Amy returned to her cramped apartment, and she was exhausted. After a full day’s work at a florist shop, she had put in another six hours waitressing before heading home.

Pushing the key into the lock, she quietly opened the door so as not to wake her younger siblings. She stepped into the front room and froze. The apartment was a shambles: plates of half-eaten food were scattered in front of the TV; toys littered the floor; clothes, shoes and homework were strewn everywhere.

Amy’s eyes welled with tears.

This is just way too much for me, she thought. Her worst fears began to race through her mind, and soon she was sobbing. Would the court tell her she couldn’t care for her family anymore? Would the kids go through the torture once more of being split up and sent away? She was so young, almost a child herself, and yet Amy knew everything depended on her. Everything. At that moment, she wondered if she would ever find the strength to see it through.

Amy had been born dead. Physicians fought and saved this smaller twin of a drug-addicted mother, and she’d had to fight for everything in life ever since.

From earliest childhood, Amy took care of her younger siblings. First it was her sister Amanda, four years younger. Then, when Amy was ten, along came Adam, followed by Joseph and finally Anthony. With a mother so often wasted — if not gone altogether — it frequently fell to Amy to feed and diaper the babies, lull them to sleep when they cried, and care for them when they were sick.

Once, when the children all came down with chickenpox, Amy wound up at the drugstore asking the clerk what to do. Handed some calamine, the ten-year-old stared at the instructions on the bottle, unable to make sense of them. Back home she bundled her siblings into the shower and afterward spread the lotion on them with bunched-up toilet paper. They healed.

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