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5/24/06 - Seattle, Washington

Gift of Love: Mother Of 22

  The saying goes that "every mother is a working mother," but few probably have the kind of long days one mom does. Julie Hehn has 22 children, many of them adopted from Ethiopia. As someone who once dreamed of running an orphanage, this busy mom says children are the best gift of all. Here's a special Gift of Love report.

  After a full day teaching elementary school in Seattle, Washington, Julie Hehn is putting on a birthday party. It's for Teddy, who's five. He's Julie's youngest - of 22!

  "I always say that I'm a mother to many. Not t-o-o, but t-o."

  Not all still live at home. But 11 do, including many teenagers. How many? Julie says, "Let me see. One, two, three, four, five, six. I think six. But don't quote me on that!"

  The three oldest are Julie's biological children. Years ago, she and her husband decided to adopt one more.

  "I felt strongly that if God presented a child to me, that meant I needed to adopt the child. I just didn't know I would be presented with so many children!"

  Altogether, she has adopted 19 children. "My name is Mia and I'm 11 years old."

  Fourteen of them from Ethiopia. "I am 10 and I am Abraham."

  "People say `Oh, it's such a great thing you are doing.' And I say, `Oh no, it's a great thing I get to do. It is so wonderful,'" says Julie.

  Julie once dreamed of running an orphanage. Now, with the help of her church - Edmonds United Methodist - she takes children out of orphanages and brings them into a family.

  "I would want people to really cherish children. I mean, I think they're the most wonderful gift in the world." Julie goes on to say, "I am really lucky that I get to do what I love to do."

  Julie believes her husband, Rich, is the real hero. Julie's first husband died from heart problems, leaving her widowed with 11 children. Rich married her with all of those children - and they've since adopted 11 more. And, they're preparing to adopt another little girl from Ethiopia.

  If you'd like to know more about adoption, call our Gift of Love hotline, toll-free, 1-888-kids-275.

Gillian Sheridan reporting.

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