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O'Briens Gearing Up For Special 'Family Night'


For Lori and Daniel O'Brien of Brookfield, Wis., being able to attend Family Night at Lambeau Field with their seven children is a dream come true. That is only half the story for this family though.

The O'Briens' other seven children -- that's right, the seven that won't be at the Family Night scrimmage, along with the seven who will make the trip to Green Bay, take the meaning of family to a whole new level.

Lori and Daniel got their foster feet wet as their now-25-year-old biological daughter would bring troubled children to the O'Brien household. This care eventually led the O'Briens to answer the call of foster care.

"One day, this mother of one of the girls that would spend days at a time at our house came over and asked us to take her child in as a foster child because she didn't want to lose her child to the streets and drugs," Lori said. "So we did, and after that we got into foster care."

That one foster experience has led to exponential growth for the O'Brien clan.

Along with three biological children, Naomi (25); Danny (23); and Sarah (21), seven adopted children, two foster children in the adoption process, one foster child, as well as one nephew whose mother died of breast cancer call the O'Brien house their home.

The seven youngest children, Elijah (9), Taylor (10), Elizabeth (11), Rickey (12), Ana (13), Joe (14), and Adam (14) will make the roughly two-hour, 15-minute trip to attend Family Night, and the children could not be more thrilled.

"The idea of them being able to see Lambeau Field, they just keep talking about it. They've seen it on TV, they've watched the Packer games. They're thinking it's going to be so fun and exciting," Lori said.

"The kids are just counting the days," Lori said as she explained that the family was making a trip to the store Friday evening to stock up on Packers gear for the Family Night scrimmage.

The kids spent their allowances making sure they'll be fully attired in Packers garb. Shirts and jerseys, in green and pink (for the girls) were going to be the hot-ticket items. A quiet voice in the background stated his purchase intentions by saying, "And a football mom."

The O'Briens originally were just going to be foster parents and never envisioned adopting as being part of their family plan. The bond with the children has been so strong that Lori and Daniel now have adopted over 75 percent of the kids who were under their foster care.

"I think that everybody has a calling in life and it's our job as people to listen to the voice of God to what your calling might be, no matter what it is," Lori said. "Whether it's working with Boys and Girls Club or coaching a team or doing what we're doing, we're just following the calling that we believe God's given us.

"We have a really deep heart and love for kids. And we believe really strongly in whether a child is in our house one day or permanently that they're part of family for that one day or permanently."

The family, living in a small, four-bedroom house, submitted a video application to ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Recently, the family was informed that another family in Wisconsin was picked for the show, but that hasn't dampened the spirits of the O'Brien bunch.

Excitement fills the house these days not only because of the Green Bay Packers Family Night scrimmage, but also because a member of the family is preparing to celebrate a lifelong milestone. Danny, Lori and Daniel's only biological son, is getting married next Saturday, six days after half the family will have experienced all that Family Night has to offer, making the upcoming week a memorable one for the whole family.

For Family Night, the Packers are partnering with the Dave Thomas Foundation and Wendy's Wonderful Kids, Jockey Being Family and Adoption Resources of Wisconsin, a familiar name to Lori and Daniel O'Brien's ears.

Generally for the O'Briens, the process has begun at the foster level where foster parents are licensed through their particular county. Then, when biological parents' rights are terminated, the children are then under the watchful eye of the state.

"That's where Adoption Resources of Wisconsin or Children's Service Society of Wisconsin have been for us in our experience, because we've ended up adopting most of our foster kids," Lori said. "Then they go through and finish the home study and then we go through the adoption process."

This process has been and continues to be a large part of Lori and Daniel's lives as they are currently working through the process of adopting their 10-year-old foster daughter Taylor and 12-year-old foster son Rickey. The couple hopes to have the adoption process finished by Christmas.

Besides their continuing work in fostering and adopting children, the couple also looks forward to the opportunity to speak about foster care and adoption and raise awareness for the children who need caring homes.

{sportsad300}"That's really important to the kids," Lori said. "When the kids were making the Extreme Makeover video, one of the things they all said was 'Mom, it's so important that we continue to keep taking in kids and helping kids, and that we let other people know the need out there so that kids can go to good, healthy, happy families.'"

The family has two options, either all pile in one minivan and hit the road, or take two, with the girls getting the air-conditioned van and the boys getting the van with no air-conditioning. "It always works that way," Lori joked.

And more than likely, the family will have a lot of things on their minds on that trip to Lambeau Field for Family Night.

For Lori and Daniel, a lifetime full of answering their calling and what that has meant to them. "It's one full of some ups and downs but a lot of love," Lori said. "And the love far outweighs any of the difficulties that you might come across."

And the kids?

The kids will likely be focused on seeing the players and soaking in the Lambeau atmosphere. "It will be the experience of their summer," their mom said.

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