Even if adoptive parents shower a child with love and support, it’s still natural for them to feel a powerful urge to seek out their biological parents. As they grow older, plenty of questions start swirling around their head, such as “Why was I given up?” “Were my parents good people?” or “Do I have siblings I don’t know about?”
From an early age, Patricia Lofton knew she was adopted. As she grew up, she developed a serious itch to find out as much as she could about her biological mother. However, it was in the midst of this search she uncovered something so extraordinary it made headline news!
Patricia Lofton was well aware that her mother gave her up for adoption when she was just a few days old because of financial strains. She accepted it, but it was always at the forefront of her mind.
Her mother already had three children when she gave birth to Patricia, and she was on welfare. Unfortunately, Patricia bounced around foster homes until the age of seven when she was officially adopted.
Throughout her childhood, Patricia never felt like she truly fit in with her family. She knew nothing about her biological mother, and she felt a noticeable disconnect between her world and the one surrounding the people in her life.
Patricia’s life grew even harder when she was in high school. She became pregnant with a baby girl, but unlike her biological mother, she intended to keep the child. She didn’t want her baby to spend her life wondering “what if.”
Around the time Patricia turned 20, perhaps because she was a mother herself, she felt an almost overwhelming urge to track down the woman who gave her up for adoption. She spent hours combing through her adoption papers, but in the end, she found no leads.
Patricia was pregnant with her second child by the time her daughter, Aquarius, was six years old. By then she was committed to the decision to raise both her daughter and soon-to-be son, Andre, by herself as best she could.
Through her 20s and30s, life was exhausting for Patricia as she tried to provide a stable environment for Aquarius and Andre. She managed to put food on the table and imbue a sense of respect and responsibility in her kids.
Still, the urge to locate her own birth mother never left Patricia, and while watching television one day, that urge took an astounding turn when the woman on the show she was watching captured her attention.
You see, a woman named Vernita Lee was discussing events in her life that matched Patricia’s adoption papers to the tee!Patricia immediately tried contacting Vernita — it could have very well been her mom — but she met roadblocks every time.
Despite the string of bad luck, Patricia pursued information about Vernita. While looking into the woman’s history, Patricia and her son found the name of another one of Vernita’s daughters that caused both of their jaws to drop: Oprah Winfrey.
Yes, it was true. Oprah Winfrey, perhaps the most powerful and recognizable celebrity in the world, was Vernita’s daughter. If Patricia’s suspicions were true, then, this would mean she and Oprah were half-sisters!
Through some intense investigation, Patricia learned of a restaurant in Wisconsin run by Oprah’s niece. She arrived with the adoption paperwork, which convinced the niece to take a DNA test. The results came back positive; it was a match!
Word made its way around the Winfrey family, and eventually, a meeting was scheduled between Patricia, Oprah, and their mother, Vernita. The two long-lost siblings clicked immediately; they had a lifetime of stories to share with each other.
Now that Oprah learned the definitive truth about Patricia, she told the world in the most grandiose way possible: she introduced her on her television program so everyone would know their story!
The joyful sisters embraced each other in front of a stunned and elated crowd. Oprah went on to chat with Patricia about the rocky road she traversed to finally find closure.
One aspect of Patricia’s journey Oprah took to heart was she never sold her story to the news to make a buck. Having the wealth and influence Oprah did meant people sometimes tried to take advantage, and Patricia was soon rewarded handsomely for her humbleness.
Oprah bought Patricia a sprawling mansion in Wisconsin priced at nearly half a million dollars! She also gave Patricia money to return to school at the University of Wisconsin to finish her degree in social work.
Patricia took none of what happened for granted, and she worked hard all the way through school. At 53 years old, she finally received her degree, and who was in the crowd cheering her on? You guessed it… Oprah!
Vernita Lee eventually passed away at the age of 83, but Patricia and Oprah will never forget how she was the key to their reunion. Two sisters, separated for decades, finally connected again.
You can imagine what a shock it was for Patricia to find out she was related to Oprah Winfrey. Of course, most people who go in search of their biological family don’t discover news this big, but that doesn’t mean the reunions are any less significant.
Estellita Murg moved around a lot throughout her life. She spent much of her childhood in Mississippi before moving to Texas for several years. Still, she didn’t settle there.
In the Buckhannon region of West Virginia, she started a career as a sales and marketing manager for a home supply chain called Harbor Freight Tools.
By the time Estellita was 22 years old, she was a mother of two, and her sister, Hope Cunningham (left) — who lived close by — would frequently help her sister out with the kids.
As much as Estellita loved being a mother, two children were difficult to juggle, especially in the midst of an emotionally-taxing divorce. This stress led her to make a difficult decision when she became pregnant with a third child.
Estellita knew she’d never be able to give a third child — whom she named Dakota — the proper amount of love and nurturing they needed due to her crazy schedule, so she gave her daughter to a family who could love her the way Estellita knew she deserved.
The adoption was closed, meaning that Estellita was told nothing about her daughter once she was welcomed by the adoptive parents, and her daughter, meanwhile, would never find out about her biological mother.
As hard as giving up her daughter was, it was the right thing to do. For two decades, Estellita continued to raise her two children, her thoughts often wandering to the third she just hadn’t been able to handle.
Meanwhile, Dakota had taken off for Florida. She was raised with the name Natalie Rodgers, however, and lived a happy life with her adoptive family.
Even so far from her mother, though, the two seemed connected on a deeper level as well: earlier in life, Natalie expressed to her adoptive mother, Anita, that she liked the name Dakota. She hadn’t even known that was the name Estellita first gave her!
Once Anita told Natalie the truth, she felt compelled to navigate the “closed” adoption: she tracked down Estellita via social media! Anxious, excited, and everything in between, she sent her birth mother a message…
And she got a response! Soon, the two women started talking! Natalie wanted her mother to know she was happy and healthy. However, despite online conversations, the two never planned any meetings.
Years passed and the two still remained states away with no plans to meet. On Estellita’s 42nd birthday, friends and family gathered at a local barbecue and pizza joint called C.J. Maggies to help her celebrate another successful year.
There, Estellita noticed everyone seemed way more excited and antsy than usual. They were in a good mood for her birthday, of course, but she sensed there was something else happening she was unaware of.
But just as dinner was served and everyone dug into their food, Estellita’s sister, Hope, disappeared downstairs. It didn’t feel right, Estellita thought, that her sister would disappear mid-meal — was something bothering her?
Concerned her sister wasn’t feeling well, Estelitta craned her neck towards the stairs, waiting for her sister to return. Everyone else, however, was staring at — and filming — the birthday girl.
After a few moments, Hope returned from the restaurant’s cellar, a group of people Estellita didn’t recognize in tow. Or, at least a group of people she at first thought she didn’t know.
In a moment of recognition, Estellita opened her arms and embraced one of the Hope’s surprise guests: the daughter she had given up for adoption two decades earlier! The mother and daughter held each other while the rest of the party watched with splendor.
Even though Natalie lived under the Florida sun for her whole life, and even though she and Estellita had never met face to face, the connection between the two was instantaneous; everyone could tell they were blood related.
After the seemingly unending hugs and tears, Estellita learned so much about her daughter after she presented her mother with a scrapbook she made chronicling major events of her life.
The scrapbook, Natalie hoped, would show her mother evidence that she made the correct decision to give her daughter up for adoption. But how did this touching reunion even come to be?
Natalie also forged a close relationship with her biological brother, Zian. With the help of Anita and the rest of the family, the two children were able to pull off the massive surprise for their mother.
With the help of family and friends, Estellita’s birthday celebration went from special to spectacular! She would have a lot to talk about with a man named Deland McCullough, whose life story started like Natalie’s — with an adoption…
Deland McCullough was born in 1972 to a 16-year-old girl named Carol Briggs. His birth name was Jon, but it was changed to Deland after Carol gave him up for adoption to a family who was better suited to care for him. Carol never told Deland’s biological father about their son.
When Deland was six weeks old, a couple from Youngstown, Ohio, welcomed him into their family. At first, life was pleasant, but Deland’s adoptive parents eventually divorced when he was two, leaving him again without a father figure.
Deland’s mother Adelle was determined not to let the demise of her marriage get in the way of Deland living life to the fullest. She encouraged him to get involved with sports and activities after school. There was one sport Deland not only liked, but excelled at…
That sport was football. Football helped him keep his mind off tensions at home, and over the years, he got better and better. By senior year of high school, he was the star running back of the varsity team, and that meant college recruiters took notice of his talent.
One of the recruiters who took a special interest in the young boy was a man named Sherman Smith, a coach at Miami University in Ohio. Sherman was incredibly supportive of Deland, and over time, the two formed a close bond.
After many talks with Sherman, Deland agreed to play for his team at Miami University, which was a huge stepping stone in his career. After a stellar performance at college, Deland was offered a deal every college player dreamed of…
He landed a spot in the NFL on the Cincinnati Bengals! All of his hard work, passion, and drive to be the best finally paid off. Sherman, who he still kept in close touch with, couldn’t have been prouder. However, not long into his new career, tragedy struck…
Deland suffered a horrendous blow to his knee that ended his professional career. He was distraught, but his mentor Sherman was by his side the whole time. Sherman knew just how disastrous it was to have a lucrative NFL career come to a screeching halt.
Within the next few years, Deland got married and had kids. His professional career was behind him, but he still loved football, and he still very much knew how to think the game. So, he eventually found a way to spend time on the gridiron.
He became a teacher and football coach at Harmony Community School in Cincinnati. There, he was able to take the skills he acquired over the years and help young players on their journeys to greatness. Within two decades, he was coaching at the University of Southern California!
Working so hard to mentor young people made him think about his own past. Before too long, Deland developed a burning desire to find out who his real parents were.
In late 2016, Deland began his search for his biological parents. There had recently been a change in state law that allowed for easier access to adoption papers, so he took full advantage. Almost immediately, he discovered his birth name and information about his real mother. So, he reached out to her, slightly nervous about what he’d discover.
Deland contacted Carol Briggs via Facebook. Carol happily spoke with Deland, and the two had a pleasant conversation. Then Deland asked about his biological father. Carol responded, and Deland’s world flipped upside down…
Carol told him his father’s name was Sherman Smith! It was the same man who met him 28 years earlier and mentored him throughout his football career! Deland was speechless. The entire time he had been with his father and neither of the men knew it!
It took Deland hours to wrap his head around the bombshell Carol just dropped on him; the odds of this happening had to have been astronomically low. But, now that he thought about it, he remembered oddly coincidental clues throughout his life that pointed to this truth…
People would constantly tell him how much he and Sherman were alike. People said they talked the same, walked the same, and had many of the same mannerisms. Now it all made sense: they were father and son! Now, it was time to tell Sherman…
Deland called Sherman and told him the news. Sherman was equally flabbergasted, but he also felt pangs of guilt about not being there for his son while he grew up. However, after a friendly conversation where Deland assured him it was no ones’ fault, Sherman felt so much better. The entire family was now a unit again!
Deland’s adoptive family and his biological family eventually met for a gathering in Nashville, Tennessee. None of them could believe the revelation that occurred between Deland and Sherman, but everyone was ecstatic they finally figured out the wild truth after almost three decades of friendship!
Deland McCullough, coaching with the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs in 2018, went on a hunt for his biological parents but never expected such a wild outcome! There was a reason he and Sherman Smith bonded so well, and that reason could only have been one thing: family.
What a wild story! Can you believe Deland knew Sherman for 28 entire years before finding out it was his father all along? The ESPN documentary about Deland’s hunt for his father is nothing short of captivating!
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