MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WKRN) – Ralph and Sue Hillman of Murfreesboro have a special place in their hearts for babies and not just their own.
With three grown children, the couple has helped care for 112 other babies through the years as foster parents.
“To think we’ve changed all of their diapers, given them all baths and fed them all,” joked Sue as she stood in front of a photo wall with pictures of each child the couple has cared for since November 1989.
The Hillmans said they remember each of the babies that have come into their home.
“This little baby right here is a big football player right now and he’s going to be graduating high school so he’ll be ready to go,” Sue said while pointing to one picture.
Now, 26 years later, the babies still keep coming.
Most recently the couple provided a home for an infant named Elizabeth.
Like many of the other children before her, she was born to a mother who used drugs.
“She had some issues with drugs. Heroin, amphetamines, all kinds of bad stuff and nicotine,” said Ralph.
The Hillmans said the babies come their way for many different reasons besides drugs.
“Sometimes it’s because they can’t handle them. The birth mom already knows that. Sometimes they’re too young and often they’re too old and maybe they have too many kids already,” said Ralph.
Sue used to work as a labor and delivery nurse and never imagined she was actually in training to become a foster parent.
The couple says it was a calling from God and the voice came to Sue one night at church that said, “I want you to take care of babies.”
Sue came home and told Ralph and he was supportive.
“It seemed like the thing to do even from the beginning. I didn’t have a doubt, never even had a question,” Ralph told News 2.
The Hillmans usually foster just one child at a time but occasionally they overlap.
Sometimes the infant stays for a couple of nights, sometimes as long as six months.
“We pray a lot over them, with them and for them so they’re covered in prayer,” explained Ralph.
The couple said it is always hard to say goodbye when the baby is adopted by another family.
“It’s a very sad time. We long ago made the decision that none of them were going to stay with us, so we’re not even thinking about adoption. But we’ve bonded with them so a part of us is leaving. We both shed a tear and then we go out and celebrate that they are going to be with someone else and it’s going to be good for them,” said Ralph.
A few times, the Hillmans crossed paths again with the babies they fostered.
“A little boy ran up to me in the grocery store and said he just wanted to thank me for what I’d done for him. That was a very close, special moment,” Ralph told News 2.
The couple has a special connection with every child that comes into their home.
“Each one has their own story and when you look at each baby you remember the story you just think, ‘Wow. It’s pretty amazing,’” said Sue.
The Hillmans show the same commitment to being foster parents that they’ve shown to one another. The couple has been married for more than 50 years.
Although they’ve fostered 112 babies, they’ve never cared for twins.
News 2 asked how much longer they plan to keep caring for babies and their response was, “When God says stop, we’ll stop.”
In 2011, Sue was awarded the Tennessee Titans Community Quarterback Award, which recognizes outstanding volunteers in the state.
The couple works with local services Catholic Charities and Miriam’s Promise.
Since News 2 met 9-week-old Elizabeth at the Hillman’s home, the little girl has been adopted.