BOISE, Idaho — Ben and Bridget Barrus of Boise have eighteen children. Yes, you read that right, eighteen! Fourteen of their children are adopted. The couple has adopted entire sibling groups, three times.
Some of their kids are off to college, one is married, one has autism, some struggle with health and behavior issues. But this couple will tell you, they have always been champions for family, foster care and adoption. Ben and Bridget Barrus have opened their hearts, and their home, to dozens of kids over the years.
“We have fostered over sixty-five children,” Bridget said. “Now we have 18 children total, four biological, fourteen adopted.“
Dad Ben Barrus says it hasn’t always been easy, but the journey has always been full of love. Being a father is the greatest joy of his life.
“Oh, it's been fantastic, it's been crazy, sometimes difficult,” Ben said.
18-year-old Bronx Barrus was once a KTVB Wednesday’s Child. He and his older sister were adopted by the Barrus family in 2012. He says being a part of this big, loving family is just what he needed.
“When I first got adopted, I felt like I fit in right away,” Bronx said. “I loved it.”
18-year-old Boden Barrus is one of the family’s four biological sons. He has been there to see every new adoption.
“I love every single one of the kids, even though it's been really hard at times,” Boden said. “I love every single one of them.”
Bridget said living in a house with so many kids is fun, and filled with chaos.
“It is controlled chaos most of the time, but I wouldn't change it for anything. There has been a lot of hard things, adoption is hard, but it is beautiful,” Bridget said.
Right now, the Barrus family is facing their biggest challenge yet, and it’s heartbreaking. A couple of years ago, Ben started having health problems.
“I noticed for the past two years or so, I was having a lot of struggles with my right arm, where gripping things was beginning to hurt a lot," Ben said.
"We started to experience muscle weakness, extreme fatigue, tremors, muscle cramping, and fast forward to today, here we are battling something that is devastating,” said Bridget.
Ben was recently diagnosed with ALS, a neurodegenerative disease. It's still sinking in.
“It changes by the hour. I think the question of how are you doing is a struggle to answer,” he explained. “We're trying to make as many memories at this point with the kids.”
ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is a progressive disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. It weakens muscles and impacts physical function. The life expectancy of a person with ALS averages about 12 to 36 months.
“This disease is terminal, there is hope in things that the FDA is doing and treatment but there isn't a cure yet,” Bridget said through tears. “I want to have the memories my children make with their dad be amazing.”
But Ben's ALS is advancing quickly. He was walking four weeks ago, and is now forced to use a wheelchair. His condition has worsened so fast, the family’s home is just not prepared for his needs.
“We were not prepared for accessibility,” said Bridget. “Now we can't make it upstairs, we can't get in a car, we can't shower without assistance, we're at that point."
The cost of widening the home’s doorways for Ben’s wheelchair, adapting the bathrooms to his needs, and building ramps in and out of the home is significant. With such a big family, it’s something the Barrus family can’t afford to do. 18-year-old son Bronx is determined to help his dad. He’s taking a construction class at Mountain View High School to learn to build ramps.
“It's a huge need,” Bronx said. “I want to show my mom that I can build this ramp for my dad's wheelchair. We want to make sure our dad can go everywhere in this house so he doesn't miss a thing.”
The Barrus’ have been touched by how all the kids are stepping up to help their dad.
“What we are going through is so incredibly complex, it's hard, and it's going to require all of us,” Bridget said. “I've watched teenagers come help lift their dad up the stairs, and little kids run and get water bottles for him or whatever he needs.”
Ben is still working as an accountant and plans to work for as long as he possibly can, but with costs adding up, this family is grateful for their friends and neighbors.
“People have really stepped up to love on us and support us during this hard time,” Bridget said. “Honestly we can't do it without help, we want to, we wish we could, but we can't.”
The Barrus family knows there are many difficult days ahead. Their faith is carrying them through. The family is hoping to adapt their home and make a trip to New York City to see a specialist who they hope can extend Ben’s life.
“Our faith is a huge cornerstone of who we are and provides some hope and building blocks for where dad's going, and then the last part is just loving them,” Bridget said. “So that's what we're trying to do.”
If you'd like to reach out and help the Barrus family with their immense needs, click here for Go Fund Me information. You can also VENMO the family @Bridget-Barrus, or donate to an account at Idaho Central Credit Union under Bridget Barrus Family Fundraising Account.
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If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with ALS or a type of Muscular Dystrophy, please contact the Muscular Dystrophy Association here in Boise at (208) 327-0107. The MDA helps support all local families dealing with ALS. There is a support group each month at St Luke's and a multidisciplinary ALS clinic each month.