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Family of eight: Mum honours best friend's dying wish to adopt her four girls

When a single mother of four girls found out the chances of winning her battle with cancer was grim, she turned to her best friend to raise her children along with her own.

Laura Ruffino and Elizabeth Diamond had been best friends since fifth grade.

As they grew up and eventually had kids of their own, their children also became close friends, with both families living near each other in Buffalo, New York.

The Ruffinos honoured Elizabeth Diamond's wish for her best childhood friend to raise her girls if she lost her cancer battle. Picture: Facebook
The Ruffinos honoured Elizabeth Diamond's wish for her best childhood friend to raise her girls if she lost her cancer battle. Picture: Facebook

So when Ms Diamond, a single mother of four young girls, found out her cancer prognosis was looking bleak, she turned to Ms Ruffino for help.

Laura, 43, told People her childhood friend had 12 brain tumors and that one on her brain stem was hemorrhaging.

“[Elizabeth said,] ‘If anything happens to me, I want you to raise my girls,’” Mrs Ruffino recalled. “And I just said, ‘Okay.’”

Laura Ruffino (left) and Elizabeth Diamond (centre) had been best friends since fifth grade. Picture: Supplied
Laura Ruffino (left) and Elizabeth Diamond (centre) had been best friends since fifth grade. Picture: Supplied

Her husband, Rico, added: “We didn’t really talk about the decision to take in the girls. I know that sounds crazy. But I just came out and said [that if] anything happened to Liz, I’d be honored to take her kids.”

Ms Diamond died at age 40 on April 4, 2015. The next day, true to their word, The Ruffinos welcomed Samona, now 10; Tara, 14; Ella, 9; and Lilyan, 7, into the home they shared with their two own daughters, Isabella, 15; and Grace, now 14.

”The transition was really hard, because I only had two kids, and two is very different than six,” Mrs Ruffino toold the Daily Mail.

To accommodate the family of eight, the house has been renovated into a five-bedroom home. Picture: Facebook
To accommodate the family of eight, the house has been renovated into a five-bedroom home. Picture: Facebook

To accommodate the family of eight, they now have two washing machines, two dryers, and two refrigerators, and transformed their garage into a two-bedroom living space with a bathroom, to give the girls more room.

As the only man in the house filled with seven girls, Mr Ruffino said most of the time the children get on harmoniously.

The older girls help take care of their younger sisters. Picture: Facebook
The older girls help take care of their younger sisters. Picture: Facebook

“They share each other’s clothes; sometimes they do it nicely, sometimes they don’t.

“They do the same with makeup; they do each other’s hair. The older ones will take care of the little ones,” he said.

The estranged biological father of Ms Diamond’s daughters eventually signed adoption papers after about a year of proceedings, which was a relief for the Ruffinos.

Elizabeth Diamond (left) had 12 brain tumors including one on her brain stem that was hemorrhaging. Picture: Supplied
Elizabeth Diamond (left) had 12 brain tumors including one on her brain stem that was hemorrhaging. Picture: Supplied

“Now is the point where I thank God and I thank Liz, because I feel so blessed,” Mrs Ruffino said.

“I always felt that way, but when you’re on a rollercoaster of losing Liz, the adoption portion was really difficult, the house was under construction, we’re in and out of court, I’m trying to work, we’re dealing with emotional girls… that was the part that was hard.”

“I wake up every day and, as much as I miss Liz and I don’t want this to be my life or the girls’ life, I still am happy that it is – because I do feel so blessed," Mrs Ruffino told the Daily Mail.

"I just feel so blessed that these are our kids and they’re just so cool. They just fill the whole house with love; they really do.”

Laura Ruffino (left) promised her best friend Elizabeth Diamond (right) that her family would always honour her memory. Picture: Facebook
Laura Ruffino (left) promised her best friend Elizabeth Diamond (right) that her family would always honour her memory. Picture: Facebook