Utah, Mormon parents of 18 children share story of love, family and adoption

By Erica Palmer

For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, June 19 2014 5:00 a.m. MDT

Updated: Friday, June 20 2014 1:23 p.m. MDT

Bria has only two fingers on one hand and a few short stubs on the other, but that doesn't stop her. Deanne Walker said she recently saw Bria carrying a full gallon of milk with one hand.

"It takes all four of my fingers to do what she does with one," Deanne Walker said. "She can do anything and everything you do. She can draw, she can write, there's nothing she can't do. OK, she can't play on the monkey bars. But I don't know if there's anything else she can't do besides the monkey bars."

Last year, the Walkers found a baby boy in China with severe heart problems. He was living in an orphanage after his parents abandoned him on the side of the road. He had very little chance of survival.

When the Walkers found him, they instantly knew he was theirs. But most doctors said his heart condition was so serious that even if he survived the trip to the U.S. and made it through surgery, he probably wouldn't live for very long.

"(The doctor said), 'Leave him there,’ ” Deanne Walker said. “ ‘Go get a child that can be fixed; there's plenty of those.’ ”

She was so angered and hurt by this comment that it only deepened her conviction that the little boy was theirs.

"I was so overcome by the Spirit," Deanne Walker said. "But making the actual decision was hard, because you're looking at spending $30,000. We had to lean on our knowledge of eternal families to really make that decision."

The adoption went through and they were able to bring the little boy, Gideon, home. They had him for 10 months before he passed away — after being sealed to the Walker family in an LDS temple.

"The understanding of the adoption, if you're not looking at it from a spiritual perspective at all, why would you bring a child into your home that isn't going to last?" Doug Walker said. "But with the eternal nature of things, we don't care if he's only with us for a day. He's ours. It wouldn't have changed our decision."

As a mortgage banker, Doug has an income that varies each year. But he said whenever they have felt like they needed to bring another child into their home, the resources have been available.

"It's kind of a joke," Deanne Walker said. "The only time we make any more money than we actually need is when there's an adoption."

They said they get all kinds of reactions when people find out how big their family is. Deanne Walker said as their family grew, trips to Costco started getting longer and longer because she was stopped by so many curious people.

"It finally got to the point where I had to teach my children — and this is so not like me — I had to teach them, 'Look down, we're in a hurry. You can't look at anyone. Because if you don't look at anyone they're intimidated and they don't want to stop,’ ” she said. "I had to teach my kids not to be friendly!"

While most people are curious and accepting of their family, she said they have also received some negative judgment.

"People are worried that we're not giving enough attention to all of our kids; that there's too much responsibility," she said.

But the Walkers see it as the complete opposite. With a family of that size, they feel there is so much more love to go around.

Their kids said they like having so many brothers and sisters because there is always someone to play with.

They play baseball and kickball, jump on the trampoline and play on the giant slip-n-slide that they set up in the backyard every summer. The family goes on hikes, goes to the dollar theater and goes on a family vacation about every other year. This year they're going to Nauvoo, Illinois, which is rich in LDS Church history.

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