A Labor of Love: Caregiver Adopts 10 Children

Judy McAtee has fostered 30 children in addition to adoptees.

ByABC News via via logo

March 3, 2008 — -- Judy McAtee's dedication to children is exemplified by her broad and extensive family. McAtee and her husband, Patrick McAtee, have adopted 10 children and fostered another 30, in addition to raising their two biological children.

"There isn't anything she won't do and anything she hasn't done," Susie Bahowick said of her friend, who's from Plato Center, Ill.

Because of her love, commitment and devotion to children, CVS/Pharmacy named Judy the winner of its "For All the Ways You Care" contest, which searched for the country's best caregivers.

An overwhelmed Judy McAtee became teary-eyed when she learned of the accolade live on "Good Morning America" today. As the grand prize honoree, McAtee received $25,000 to continue her life's work.

A heartfelt letter from her husband of 33 years helped seal her nomination and subsequent win.

"She is my hero," Patrick McAtee wrote about his wife. "She is a hero of countless scores of others. She's never asked for anything in return save the joy of succeeding to make a difference."

Judy McAtee, who's a full-time mom, home school teacher, dog breeder and volunteer, said she sees helping children as her calling.

"The thought of a child going to bed at night without a hug and a kiss — I don't even sleep," said Judy McAtee, who beat out nine others for the award. "Raising children is either going to keep us young or kill us, and either way, we are happy."

Today her kids range in age from 2 to 32, but that doesn't mean there's no room for another.

"When she gets a new baby, you think 'This is the last. No, No.' Never say never when it comes to Judy," Bahowick said.

The McAtee children are grateful for their mother's sacrifices. One of the couple's older children, 21-year-old Breinne McAtee, said the adoption saved her life.

"If I hadn't been adopted, I probably wouldn't be living," said Breinne McAtee, who was adopted as a 2-month-old infant from Peru in desperate need of medical care.

Her sister, Reaghan, was adopted from Nepal and said she is ecstatic to be apart of the McAtee clan.

"She's the best mom I could have," Reaghan said. "I can't believe that I'm in this family."

Judy McAtee's caring is contagious. The McAtee kids share in everything and when Judy isn't attending to her own family she's helping others with theirs.

She even started a successful dog-breeding business and co-founded an interracial adoption support group.

"I don't think that anyone could do what she does in a day and love as many kids as she has," another friend, Susie Goldthwaite, said.

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