+
upworthy

ohio

Family

Woman goes to huge lengths to adopt husband's ex-wife's baby to save him from foster care

She had lived in foster care and didn't want it for the newborn with no name.

Christie Werts and her son, Levi


Christie and Wesley Werts have taken the idea of a blended family to the next level. When the couple fell in love five years ago and married, they brought together her children, Megan and Vance, and his children, Austin and Dakota.

As of January, the Ohio family has five children after adopting young Levi, 2. Levi is the son of Wesley’s ex-wife, who passed away four days after the child was born. The ex-wife had the boy prematurely, at 33 weeks, and died soon after from drug addiction and complications of COVID-19.

When Levi was born, he was a ward of the state with no first name or birth certificate.


“When I heard about Levi, without hesitation, I said we should take him,” Christie said, according to The Daily Mail, and her reason went far beyond the fact that the child was the half-brother to two of her recently adopted children. “I myself was a foster kid and, although for the most part, I had a great experience, I did not want him going to foster care,” Christie said.

@cjthemom5

Replying to @Journey♥️ Yes, they will always know of her and ill be there for every emotion good or bad. But im also mom, ive been to every game, every doctors appt, sat with them if they needed an ear loved unconditional . I am mom also. #adoption #srorytime #siblings #foryou #loveislove

Before the family knew of Levi’s birth, Christie had a recurring dream about a blue-eyed, blonde-haired boy.

"Before Levi, we had wanted to try to have a child of our own," she told Newsweek. "I'm in my forties, so we knew that we would probably need fertility treatment, so I thought let's just think about it and what will be will be."

The problem was that Levi was in Texas, so the family sold their house and moved to the Lone Star State to go through the arduous adoption process. The situation was further complicated because Levi’s biological father had parental rights even though he had substance abuse problems. The family couldn’t move out of Texas until his rights were legally terminated.

But after a 16-month process, in January 2023, Levi became a legal family member. Christie understands that adopting her husband’s ex-wife’s baby may seem unusual to some people. "It's a lot to process for a lot of people, but honestly, it seems a lot crazier than it was. At the time, it just made sense," she said.

@cjthemom5

Our adoption is official !!! after 17 months!!! #adoption #son #loveyou #ourstory#foryou #fyp

Even though Christie knew in her heart that she must adopt Levi, she wasn’t without reservations. “'If I said I did not [have concerns beforehand], that would not be honest,” she told The Daily Mail. “This was different—I was going to walk into a child I never met and was worried the circumstances would hinder this instant love. But [...] he stole my heart. I also felt this intense need to protect him.”

These days, Levi fits right in with the family, and the rest of the kids are happy to be back to living an everyday life without any caseworkers or inspections.

“He's great, he is the king of the house! We are all very close. He won't understand the journey right now, but someday, I will let him know we fought for him!” Christie said.


This article originally appeared on 8.31.23

via Matt / Flickr

An Oregon, Ohio police dispatcher and the daughter of a domestic abuse victim are being lauded for their response to a violent situation. Dispatcher Tim Teneyck was manning the phone lines when a curious call came in that he first assumed was a prank.

"I would like to order a pizza," the 911 caller said, giving a residential address.

"You called 911 to order a pizza?" a bemused Teneyck asked. "This is the wrong number to call for a pizza."

"No, no, no, no, you're not understanding," the woman insisted.


"I'm getting you now," Teneyck quickly replied. "We'll get 'em going."

"Is the other guy still there?" Teneyck asked

"I need a large pizza," the woman said.

"How about medical, do you need medical?" Teneyck replied. "No," the woman replied.

"With pepperoni," the woman continued.

"We'll get 'em going," Teneyck stated before asking if the woman can stay on the phone.

"No," the woman replied before the call ends.


Why This Woman Called 911 to Order Pizzawww.youtube.com


Teneyck realized she needed emergency assistance because of her persistence. "She stuck right to it," he told Inside Edition. "I knew there was something else going on."

The dispatcher told police to go to the house with their sirens off saying "there's domestic violence going on." When police arrived, they saw the call was from a young woman whose mother was assaulted by her boyfriend, 56-year-old Simon Lopez.

According to the young woman, Lopez came home drunk saying he was going to "beat her ass" before punching her and throwing her into a wall.

"I was thinking to myself 'I need to call 911 but how do I get him to stay in the house so he will be taken out in handcuffs' and I just thought, 'Pizza!'" the woman told Inside Edition.

Simon Lopez, 56, was arrested by police and charged with misdemeanor domestic violence. Lopez also had a warrant out for failure to appear.

"I thank him from the bottom of my heart," the woman said of Teneyck.

via Inside Edition / YouTube

The next day, Oregon Police Chief Mike Navarre praised Teneyck as well.

"He utilized his training and his experience to recognize that a woman was in distress," Navarre told NBC News. "We have no way of knowing what would have happened if she didn't get through."

After the incident, the dispatcher and police chief learned that some support groups teach people to report domestic violence surreptitiously to 911 by pretending to order Chinese food or pizza.

When the operator says "you have the wrong number" the person reporting the violence is supposed to say, "no."

Navarre is using the call to train other dispatchers on how to realize if someone is in trouble and can't express it in words.

"A good dispatcher is going to recognize that this is a person who wants to talk and needs help. That is exactly what happened here," he said. "Some dispatchers might hang up on this person, but it's worth a try to give it your best shot. That's what she did, and it worked out extremely well."

To get support, resources, and hope for anyone affected by domestic violence in the U.S. call 1.800.799-SAFE (7233).

True
NBC's Rise

When Stamy Paul started traveling for work over a decade ago, she fell in love with urban art in all its forms — including graffiti.

"It was really fascinating to me because it was evident in every culture and country I visited," Paul says.

That's why she was determined to figure out how to bring it into her own home. Unfortunately that was easier said than done.


Paul scoured her hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, for a local graffiti artist to paint a mural in her house, but even though the city's covered in graffiti, she couldn't find anyone. It seemed that graffiti simply wasn't an art form that people often commissioned in Cleveland.

Sure the artists were out there, but they weren't profiting from their work.

After all, it's rare for graffiti artists to be counted in the more mainstream art world.  But Paul decided to help change that.

In 2013, she started Graffiti HeArt — a nonprofit dedicated to promoting graffiti and street art through urban community revitalization via volunteer artists.

A portion of project commissions as well as donations go toward funding education opportunities for underserved kids who're interested in pursuing art as a profession.

Eileen and Ish at work 🎨 with @Graffiti Heart ❤️ #wallsforscholarships Gordon Square Arts District community partner 👍🏽

Posted by Graffiti HeArt on Sunday, September 10, 2017

The idea is to show these kids that art, including graffiti art, can not only improve public spaces, but also lead to legitimate careers.

Graffiti HeArt has a partnership with the Cleveland Institute of Art Pre-college Program — a two-week intensive course designed to help kids with sights on a career in the arts hone their skills and build up their portfolio.

Paul says a huge percentage of the kids who attend the program go on to pursue art in college. In order to help them continue on that trajectory after they graduate, Graffiti HeArt is developing an internship program where young artists will be able to shadow more established artists as they create commissioned work.

Graffiti HeArt is showing these aspiring artists there can be a future in graffiti — it just starts with exposure.

Even though the artists mainly create murals on a volunteer basis, they're work is being elevated not only through the nonprofit's mission, but because it's improving the local community.

[rebelmouse-image 19346716 dam="1" original_size="700x350" caption=""Greetings from Cleveland" mural by Victor Ving. Photo via Stamy Paul." expand=1]"Greetings from Cleveland" mural by Victor Ving. Photo via Stamy Paul.

Take the "Welcome to Cleveland" mural created by Brooklyn artist Victor Ving. Because it's part of the "Welcome to" murals that Ving's painted in major cities across the country, it's become one of the most iconic images associated with the city.  It's a prime example of how graffiti art can bolster a neighborhood rather than mark it as derelict or unsafe.

These artists are gaining notoriety, higher commissions, and cool project offers because of art they've made for Graffiti HeArt.

As a result, whenever Paul puts out a call for artists, she's often met with a deluge of responses.

[rebelmouse-image 19346717 dam="1" original_size="1420x1064" caption="Artist Garrett Weider finishing a Graffiti HeArt mural at Cleveland-based company Avalution. Photo via Graffiti HeArt/Facebook. Used with permission." expand=1]Artist Garrett Weider finishing a Graffiti HeArt mural at Cleveland-based company Avalution. Photo via Graffiti HeArt/Facebook. Used with permission.

Paul credits the organization's glowing reputation with the fact that they always upheld their mission from the get-go.

"I think [the artists] saw that what we said we were going to do, not only did we do it, but we were truly in it for the artists, the art, and the youth."

What's more, the community loves the art these artists make. That's why they're getting to work on bigger and cooler projects.

[rebelmouse-image 19346718 dam="1" original_size="960x778" caption="Graffiti HeArt mural done during Gay Games 9 in 2014, in Cleveland, Ohio. Artist Jim Gair "The Rev" (left), Stamy Paul (center), and Randy Crider, artist (right). Photo via Stamy Paul." expand=1]Graffiti HeArt mural done during Gay Games 9 in 2014, in Cleveland, Ohio. Artist Jim Gair "The Rev" (left), Stamy Paul (center), and Randy Crider, artist (right). Photo via Stamy Paul.

Their first gig was creating the sole art installation at the 2014 Gay Games in Cleveland. A few of their artists made a number of interactive graffiti and giant murals for the occasion.

Today, they're about to embark on a huge mural project in Cayey, Puerto Rico, as part of the revitalization movement after Hurricane Maria.

Participating artists will not only create street art, they'll work with students from the nearby arts college, bolstering community involvement and inspiring the next generation of creators.

The collaboration all started through a reach out on social media. Now Paul's in talks with the mayor of Cayey to make sure this project goes off without a hitch.

"We’re working with a lot of strangers who are now friends," she says.

Having her mission welcomed by a community in dire need of inspiration is a huge deal for Paul. She's seeing the stigma surrounding graffiti be stripped away firsthand.

Shout out to Shani Shih and her DC artists crew, bringing their #waterislife tour to Cleveland on their way to Standing Rock! #graffitiheart @GraffitiHeArt ❤️

Posted by Graffiti HeArt on Thursday, December 1, 2016

However, she hopes the art form retains some of its rebelliousness. After all, that's what captured her heart in first place.

"The fact that graffiti is gritty, it is contentious. There’s a lot of friction with it — that’s what makes it exciting."

The more prevalent it is above ground, though, the more the stigmas surrounding it fall by the wayside, which is Paul's ultimate goal. The more art Graffiti HeArt puts out there, the clearer the path from street artist to professional artist will become for future generations.

That said, they need your help in order for them to continue doing what they do. Please consider donating to the Puerto Rico project or the organization as a whole, so they can keep inspiring communities and aspiring artists.

Mikah Frye is experiencing a holiday season he'll never forget.

But not every Christmas has been so merry and bright for the 9-year-old from Ohio.

GIF via Fox 8 News.


"It was about three years ago; we hit some financial problems, me and my husband and Mikah — we ended up losing our home," Mikah's mom explained to Fox 8 News. "We stayed [in a shelter] for just a few weeks until we found a new place to live."

The tough times made a lasting impression on Mikah. This year, when he spotted people in need outside in the cold in Ashland County, the sight affected him deeply.

How could people possibly survive out there in freezing temperatures?

"He knew what it was like to not have a blanket at night and to have to give it back," Mikah's grandmother Terry Brant tearfully explained of her family's experience in the shelter, according to ABC 13 News. "When they gave him a blanket, he had to give it back."

Brant had suggested he give up one of his Christmas gifts; that way, Mikah's family could afford to buy a blanket for someone in need. Later that day, however, Mikah came back with quite the counteroffer.

If he gave up his big holiday wish-list item — a brand new Xbox, worth about $300 — Mikah knew lots of blankets could be given to those in need.

The family followed through with his selfless request. Instead of receiving an Xbox, 60 blankets were purchased and gifted to Access — the emergency shelter program that helped his family three years ago.

Mikah wrote a touching, hopeful letter to the blankets' recipients.

[rebelmouse-image 19532943 dam="1" original_size="500x255" caption="GIF via ABC 13 News." expand=1]GIF via ABC 13 News.

The letter read (emphasis added):

When I was 6 years old, my mom and I lived at the churches. They gave me a blanket, but I had to leave it. That’s why I want you to have your own blanket. Today I live in my own house and someday you will too.

Your friend, Mikah

Microsoft, which makes Xbox, learned about Mikah's act of generosity.

Touched by his selfless spirit, the local Microsoft store in Beachwood, Ohio, invited Mikah in and surprised him with a spectaular set of gifts: a Microsoft tumbler and blanket, several Xbox games ... and, of course, an Xbox too.

GIF via Fox 8 News.

"Mikah, we just want to say thank you," a Microsoft employee explained to the 9-year-old after he opened his gifts. "What you did for your community was amazing, and when we heard about that story, we just wanted to make sure we gave back to you as well."  

Check out the heartwarming video by Fox 8 News of Mikah opening his gifts below.

Most of the video is a delight, but you can skip ahead to about the one-minute mark to see Mikah open his gifts:

A 9-year-old who gave up an Xbox to help homeless people is getting a big surprise today. Watch this heartwarming moment...

Posted by Fox 8 News on Saturday, December 16, 2017