Rita Marlow and Seth Lentchner never thought they’d add another member to their family, but when their son’s best friend needed help, they knew there was only one thing left for them to do.
When the couple from Bensalem, Pennsylvania, heard that Nate, their son’s soccer teammate, was kicked out of his home, they offered to help him. Recently, that boy officially became their son.
Rita and Seth met Nate, now 16, for the first time about nine years ago when he and their son, Zachary, played soccer together. The young boys became close friends, and their families became familiar with one another.
As the years went by, they discovered Nate’s family’s struggles. They would pick him up on Friday, and the boy would stay for the weekend. As he got older, the family saw him a lot more, and he hung out a lot more at their house.
During a 2016 soccer tournament, Rita and Seth got a phone call saying that Nate had been removed from his home. They wanted to know if they could keep the boy connected to soccer.
A few days later, Nate’s case manager asked whether they would consider becoming foster parents.
“This wasn’t something we had ever considered,” Rita told TODAY. “They said the reason they were asking is that Nate asked to come live at our house.”
Rita first consulted her son, Zach, about it. She told him that Nate needed their help, but they would have to share a room. The boy had no objections. He just said: “Absolutely. We need to help Nate.”
Rita admitted she was a bit nervous about how they would make ends meet. She also didn’t want to fail Nate. But as it turns out, she had nothing to worry about because her fellow soccer moms, their friends, and some family members rallied together to offer help in many ways. They donated everything from gift cards to bunk beds.
“Everybody immediately stepped up — and that’s why I sound so cliché about saying ‘our village’ — just to make sure this kid was going to succeed,” Rita said. “That’s how it’s always been for five years. We provided the roof, but along the way, so many people have been here.”
At 13, after being under Rita and Seth’s care for about a year and a half, Nate decided he wanted to be with them for good.
“He decided our home was where he wanted to be,” Rita said. “We had started the adoption process and then all of a sudden we stopped and it went back to being reunited (with his birth mother). Every time that happened, it was kind of defeating. (It felt like) he was never going to get what he wanted. He just wanted that piece of paper that said he was going to be adopted.”
But in November 2020, the news they were waiting for finally came. Nate’s case manager told them it was happening—referring to Nate’s adoption. Rita said it was the “best Thanksgiving” they’ve ever had.
And on July 13, 2021, exactly 1,758 days—or almost five years—of foster care, Nate officially became their son!
Initially, they were told that only six people could be in court. Their own family, including siblings Kari, JT, and Cameron, had to choose who could attend. Thankfully, they got a phone call saying there was no limit, so Seth invited their soccer family.
Fifty-two adults and kids wearing matching blue shirts went to the Bucks County courtroom for Nate’s adoption hearing.
“We started filing in and I’m facing the judge and with every single person that walked in, his smile just kept getting bigger and bigger,” Rita recalled of the special moment. “It was such a goosebump moment to see all these people who have supported Nate be there on that day.”
At home, soccer mom Nedra McCormac called on friends and community members for one last surprise—decorating the family’s front yard.
Nedra also received generous donations from community members and businesses, allowing her to decorate the family’s yard and give Nate over $1,000 worth of gift cards.
Rita is grateful for all the people who have been with them since day one.
“Everybody being there to share in this joy … it’s almost like they have all been through this with us,” she said.
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A big congratulations to the family!