Before Octomom and Jon and Kate Plus 8, residing in a quiet tract of Huntington Beach there lived Octodad. Unlike the two media creations mentioned, Octodad arrived by three of his children in the natural way and added five more in the noblest way. Now Octodad, whose real name is Ron Guild, was not always alone, he started as one half of an unassuming couple with hearts of gold who; united in their love for each other and for children and guided by their faith, decided to open their home to children in need and began taking in foster children in 1991 which resulted in their adopting five of the children who came into their care.
Tragically, Octodad’s better half, Lucy, a raven haired, Portuguese beauty, whose love for children stemmed from the maternal role she assumed for her 9 brothers and sisters while growing up, was diagnosed with inoperable cancer in 2004 and departed this world in July of 2005. This is when Ron unofficially became a super hero: faced with raising five adopted children, ages 14, 13, 12, 8, and 3, and caring for their 27 year-old daughter who was born with medi-trophic dysplasia, hydro-cephalis and constricted lung disease; any normal person would have succumbed to bitterness, self-pity, denial, nervous breakdown – any one, or all of these combined. But not this man and not this family…
In the photograph are Ron and all but one of his children: in the back from left: Jake, age 35; Ron, and Josh – 37; in the front: Corianna, 13; Braylen, 17; Jayna – 32; Suzanna – 8; and Abbie – 16. Jordan, now 19, was at work.
Jordan was the first of the children that Lucy and Ron fostered in 1991 and the first to be adopted. Ron couldn’t remember how many children they had over the years, but Jayna says she kept a record and there were about 20. After Jordan came Braylen and Abbie, followed by Corianna a few years later, and finally Suzanna became #5. Lucy and Ron loved all their children but realized that financially they just couldn’t adopt anymore and the only way to prevent them from becoming so attached was to change their status with Social Services to an Emergency Shelter Home (ESH) where babies or children are placed in a home for a maximum of 30 days.
I came to know the Guild family through an organization called ARK (At Risk Kids – now part of YMCA), a mentoring program which matches screened volunteers to foster children. I had requested to be matched with a girl that was about my daughter’s age (5) and lived in or near Huntington Beach. Instead of one, I got two beautiful girls: Abbie and Braylen who in 1996 were 4 and 5 years old. For several years I would pick them up once or twice a month and bring them to my house to play or go to the movies, the beach, or an ARK Fun Day. When the girls were in middle school we saw each other less but I’ve stayed in touch with the family over the years.
When Lucy was diagnosed as terminally ill in 2004, Ron requested emergency leave from his employer so he could take care of the children and household while Lucy was in hospice care. After her death, he continued to stay home with the children out of necessity – it was summer and the children were not in school; but he was also out of a job because his employer had to fill his position. I know a little of the struggle that Ron experienced during this time – on top of the grief, the anguish and uncertainty of looking for a job, even questioning whether he should go back to work because of the difficulty in hiring a person who could care for a toddler and juggle the schedules and transportation of four school age children. He applied for employment at Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa where Lucy had worked part-time for years to offset tuition costs for Abbie, Braylen and Corianna. Jordan attended Edison High School and Suzanna was enrolled three days a week in preschool. How in the world was he going to juggle all this and work too?
Ron’s background is in manufacturing and, unfortunately, Calvary was unable to offer him employment, but the church community has been supportive of the family in so many other ways. Abbie and Braylen continued at Calvary, now in high school, they participate in the work-study program to contribute towards tuition costs. Abbie works after school each day and Braylen, a member of the tennis team, works during lunch to accommodate the tennis team’s practice schedule. Corianna plays soccer and wanted to go to public school to be with her soccer and neighborhood friends, she attends Sowers Middle School in Huntington Beach. Suzanna is now in 3rd grade at Calvary. Jordan attends Orange Coast College and is employed at South Coast Plaza.
In September of 2007, Suzanna was entering first grade and just when Ron thought he would be able to reenter the work force and seek fulltime employment, another severe blow was cast on the family when his daughter Jayna was hospitalized for pneumonia. While at the hospital she was stricken with central sleep apnea and flat-lined, if she had been at home, she would not have survived. Jayna was born with hydrochephalis and a rare bone disease called medi-trophic dysplasia. A shunt was implanted to drain fluid from the brain. As a result of these afflictions, she suffers from constricted lung disease and requires 24-hour oxygen support. When she developed central sleep apnea doctors recommended a tracheotomy, not only for her safety but to optimize future treatments, and use of a ventilator when she sleeps.
With the help of friends, family, their church, and government services such as Adoption Assistance, Medi-Cal, In-home Support Services, and In-Home Operations; Ron has been able to keep their house and the children that make it a home intact. The Guilds have not only survived each medical hurdle and their financial struggles thus far, but seem to gain strength, courage, and an increased resilience that further solidifies their resolute bond.
Ron is featured as Dad of the Month at http://topmomblog.com, a website that honors moms of all ages and, being an equal opportunity website, men such as Ron Guild who exemplify greatness.
This article was published by the Orange County Register at http://bit.ly/2j1XsP
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