Despite her abusive parents and two devastating losses, she made it.
Waking up to the screaming downstairs, Stephanie DeMond pulled the covers over her head in attempt to escape reality. She had no clue who was in her house and what all the commotion was about.
“What is going on? You can’t take her from me, that is my daughter,” her mom cried out with tears running down her face as she watched the police officer take her 8-year-old princess away. Still half asleep, DeMond sat in the back of the police cruiser confused and overwhelmed with questions.
“I was 8 or 9 years old,” said DeMond, now a senior at Castleton University. “I had no clue what was going on. I just remember staring at the alarm clock as the police officer slammed on my bedroom door, rushing me to get ready.”
After being taken from her mom, DeMond entered foster care hoping to find a comfortable place to call home. For a few years she would bounce from house to house, living with different families until she could be adopted.
Although she had little luck finding a nice home, there was one foster family that stood out from the rest. The house Stephanie wanted to call home sat at the end of a little dirt road off of Route 5 in Windsor, Vt. Decorated with flowerbeds and dozens of wind chimes, the old country house belonged to an old country family. Byron and Patti DeMond cared for Stephanie as if she was one of their own.
“Stephanie has changed my life from the minute I saw her,” said Pattie DeMond. “I felt a special connection to this child and knew, in my heart, somehow I would be bound to this little girl. Stephanie Michelle Massy DeMond is a shining star and can light up a room with her smile. She has given me happiness.”
But shortly after Stephanie moved into the house, Byron, who was the chief of police in Windsor, had to retire after being diagnosed with cancer.
“During the years I was still technically in foster care, I got to bond with him before he passed,” said Stephanie. “After he retired we bought him a recliner, and we use to sit in it together and watch the hunting channel. I would always pick on him for falling asleep and he would always be like, ‘I’m just resting my eyes.’”
As Byron’s condition grew worse, he was forced to enter into the hospital, where he would soon pass away, but not before gaining legal custody of his daughter, Stephanie DeMond.
“I was actually adopted in the room he was staying in. Me, my social worker and close family, well soon-to-be family, gathered in his room and signed the papers that morning. That night we got the call that he passed away,” DeMond explained. “It’s like he was waiting until I was his.”
A year or two after Byron passed away, Stephanie entered the eighth grade and began to date a kid by the name of Nick Newcity. Although most may laugh at the thought of young love, these two shared a special bond. He made everything she went through a thing of the past. He healed wounds left by a dark childhood and helped her grow into the person she is today.
“We dated for three years and he accepted me for my broken self,” Steph said as she laughed at her crazy chain of events. “But seriously, he made me forget about all the things in my past, but then, he died my junior year of high school.”
It was a typical day in August, and Steph had just taken a shower. She came downstairs to find Patti standing there, telling her that they had to go because something had happened to Nick. He stopped breathing and had to be rushed to the hospital. They quickly got in the car and rushed to the hospital. The whole ride there, Steph was in shock, thinking to herself that this can’t really be happening, not on top of everything else that she has already been through. After going foster home to foster home, having an absent mother, a father who was never there, and then losing the closest thing she ever had to a dad; she couldn’t be losing Nick too.
“I went up to him and touched his arm, and he was freezing. He had tubes down his throat and his face was swollen. It didn’t even look like him. Nina, Nick’s mom, was standing there running her fingers through his hair, begging him to stay strong. I was just standing there in shock balling my eyes out,” Stephanie said.
Since the passing of Nick, Stephanie has formed a strong friendship with his mother, Nina Newcity. Although they were close before Nick passed away, Nina felt as though it was her job to protect Stephanie in Nick’s place.
“I wanted to take her pain away. I believe we both knew how much he wanted us to be happy,” Nina explained. “We still share a deep loss, and instead of growing apart we grew closer. She’s the daughter I never had. She has a place in my life that no one could ever understand.”
In her last year at Castleton, finishing up her social work major, Demond is deep into her internship, working with the same foster care system she went through as a kid. After all of her experiences with life, she has made it her goal to help others.
“It’s crazy to see people deal with some of the same struggles I once had to go through,” she said. “It feels good to make positive change in peoples’ lives, especially ones I can relate to.”