When opioid crisis hit Ohio, a couple stepped up to help the kids Suzanne and Jesus Valle adopted six kids from Ohio families struggling with addiction, after raising nine of their own. At StoryCorps, the couple reflected on their unexpected shift in priorities.

They didn't plan to be a family of 17. Then, the opioid crisis hit their community

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A MARTINEZ, HOST:

Over the past year, the pandemic has driven opioid abuse to a new high. More than 100,000 people died from overdoses. One of the hardest hit areas has been Blue Creek, Ohio. That's where Jesus Valle and his wife, Suzanne, have lived for two decades. They've taken in six children, all from families struggling with addiction, and their conversation is the focus of this week's StoryCorps.

SUZANNE VALLE: We have told the children that their parents do love them, but they are not able to take care of them, so we stepped in. I always like to tell everybody, we raised yours, mine, ours, my brother's, now others. But I never dreamed in my wildest imagination that we would be in the situation we are today. Did you, Jesus?

JESUS VALLE: No, I didn't. I thought we supposed to be by ourselves travelling together.

S VALLE: But I don't know if we would be as happy without all these kids. Kids bring happiness.

J VALLE: Yeah, they do.

S VALLE: Do you remember when one of them said, you mean to tell me you haven't adopted us yet, Aunt Sue. Why not? And then we had our adoption party and we took them to that hotel and they went swimming. And the guy from the hotel said, is your parents here? And he said, no, and then he said, yes.

J VALLE: He said, yes, there's my dad.

S VALLE: You know, I'm 62 years old, and I think about the seasons of life. From zero to 20, you're in the spring of life. From 20 to 40, it's summer. You're in the prime of life. Forty to 60, it's the fall of the year, and your body starts kind of falling apart.

J VALLE: Can we make that season a little longer?

S VALLE: (Laughter) It's unbelievable. Do you realize if we can live another 20 years, we'll be in our 80s? And I've worried about it a little bit.

J VALLE: But if we can encourage every kid to help each other, I don't think we have anything to worry about.

S VALLE: I look back over the years of our lives, and we've struggled. But you always were right there by my side for those decisions to take on more children, to raise them. And you've really done that unselfishly, Jesus. You know, we get busy with life, and I don't say it enough, and I just want to say that to you.

J VALLE: Thank you. I never expect anybody to praise me for what I do. I love the kids, and things change, but I don't mind because I think we did the right thing.

(SOUNDBITE OF BLUE DOT SESSIONS' "SAGE THE HUNTER")

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