Talk-show host and comedienne Ellen DeGeneres, who loves a feel-good story, couldn’t resist the story of University of Toledo sophomore Chris Sanders’ big-hearted family.
In early November, she invited the family of 13, which nearly doubled in size when his parents adopted a family of six siblings last year, to Los Angeles. Chris, 20 and an undecided major at UT, is the oldest of his five biological and six adopted siblings.Producers told the Sanders family, who gained notoriety in their hometown of Cincinnati after the adoptions, that they wanted to fly them to Los Angeles to film a segment about their story.
Little did the family know that Ellen had one of her typical surprises in store — an appearance on her show, a $50,000 Walmart gift card, and an invitation to come back for one of her 12 Days of Christmas shows, one of the most coveted tickets in Hollywood.
As the family zipped around the Warner Brothers campus in a golf cart with a tour guide during their visit, they pulled into the studio where the Ellen show is filmed. All of a sudden, doors opened and they drove right onto Ellen’s stage in front of a live audience. Click here to see the show.
“I’m not a shy guy,” Chris said, “but I was in shock. We all love Ellen and follow her on social media. We were yelling.”
The family isn’t sure how Ellen found out about them. Their story had been Tweeted by comedian Gary Owen and others had tagged Ellen on social media posts about the family.
Christina Sanders, Chris’ mother, said she had always wanted to foster children. A month after becoming certified in 2014, the Sanders family took in four brothers. When Christina and her husband, Christopher, found out that the boys had two sisters, they began inviting the girls over for holidays, birthdays and weekends.
It wasn’t long before the children were calling Christina and Christopher mom and dad.
In April, the adoption was finalized. The Sanders family now includes 11 children from ages 20 to 9.
For Chris, having extra kids in the house was normal. His mom was always helping someone.
“Helping people is something we’re passionate about,” he said.
Adoption wasn’t a hard call.
“We loved them. They’re family,” Chris said. “We were going to do whatever we needed to do.”
He does admit that he feels a bit of added pressure and responsibility. There are six more pairs of eyes on him now, and 10 siblings who look up to him as a big brother.
“But I actually like it,” he said. “I’m not going to lie.”
Christina said Chris is more than up to the task of being a role model. He’s almost like a third parent.
“They love Chris. He’s the best big brother ever,” she said. “He has talks with them and checks on them.”
Chris lives off campus with his childhood friend, James Spells. The pair wanted to see what life had to offer outside of Cincinnati and found UT to be a good fit. Chris also found that having a little distance between himself and his family allows him to focus on school.
Christina and Christopher flew back to LA for the Nov. 28 episode of Ellen’s 12 Days of Christmas. The Day 6 giveways included kitchen goodies like a Keurig coffee maker and a gas grill.