Melissa Irons could barely contain her tears as she embraced her two younger brothers. They had, after all, been separated for six years. But it’s the reason why the 21-year-old sought them out that will melt your heart.
It all came about because Melissa, to say the least, did not have the happiest childhood. In fact, her mom had frequent run-ins with the law, and Melissa spent much of her youth being moved from foster home to foster home. What’s more, she didn’t get to spend much time with her two younger brothers – Christian and JJ.
And, unfortunately for Melissa, her mother didn’t get better as time went on. Indeed, even two decades after Melissa was born, Melissa’s mom is still struggling to stay on the right side of the tracks, get free from drug addiction and sort out her life.
Unsurprisingly, then, Melissa’s mom was judged to be an unfit parent, and the ten-year-old Christian and nine-year-old JJ were themselves put in foster care in 2014. Naturally, when Melissa heard the news, she was devastated.
At this point, though, Melissa had reached adulthood and had joined the United States Marine Corps. She has said that she was drawn to the army because it provided her with the “structure and discipline” that she lacked during her difficult childhood.
And, knowing first-hand how difficult it can be to grow up in foster care, Melissa was determined that something had to be done about her brothers. Therefore, she devised a bold plan to rescue her brothers from the same hardships that she had to go through.
Of course, Melissa intended to legally adopt her brothers so that the three of them could live together as a stable family unit. However, their mother wasn’t too happy about the proposal.
As a result, whether or not Melissa could get custody of her brothers would be decided in a court of law. And because of her young age and small income, the odds were stacked against Melissa from the get-go.
To make matters worse, Melissa would have to travel some 2,000 miles from California to Alabama to present her case to the judges. Given that she was already having difficulty paying her rent, this journey alone would be quite expensive.
Melissa’s story, however, was so inspiring that a group of filmmakers led by YouTuber Greg Benson decided to shoot a short film about her struggle. Amazingly, they even gave Melissa and her two good friends – Alexis and Angie – money and food to help them make the trip, and they also paid her rent for the month of October.
So, the girls arrived at the courthouse after a three-day-long trip. And, thankfully for Melissa, the judge agreed to grant her legal guardianship of the boys. After hearing the news, Melissa immediately set out to surprise her brothers.
Melissa, though, could hardly contain her nerves as she approached her brothers’ school. After all, she hadn’t seen Christian and JJ in six years, and she hadn’t told them about her arrival.
When she entered JJ’s classroom, however, and laid eyes on her youngest brother, she couldn’t hold back the tears. And, despite being apart for so long, JJ immediately recognized his sister.
Then, after the separated siblings hugged, they made their way to Christian’s classroom to complete the family reunion. Christian ran into his sister’s arms, beaming.
While the boys were simply happy to see Melissa, their joy was multiplied when they found out that they’d be going back to California to live together as a family. But, even now, the heartwarming story wasn’t finished quite yet.
Not long after returning home, Melissa discovered that the film about her was not going to be the documentary she was expecting. As it turned out, the filmmakers were actually participating in something called “Prank it Forward” – a project that rewards incredible people with positive pranks.
So, to complete the prank, Benson arrived at Melissa’s home with one last surprise. As Melissa and her brothers stepped outside, they saw three identical cars pulling up to the house.
As Benson explained to the shocked Melissa, they could choose one of the three Toyota Rav4s, colored red, white, and blue. On top of that, Toyota would also cover the cost of future vehicle servicing for her.
The video of Melissa’s heart-warming story and the surprise ending was uploaded to Benson’s YouTube channel, MediocreFilms, in November 2014. Since then, it has amassed nearly three million views. This no doubt helped when Melissa, who had not yet been approved to receive legal guardian assistance, started a GoFundMe campaign in December 2014 to help cover the cost of raising her brothers.
Since then, the campaign has raised more than $6,000, and today Melissa lives happily together with her brothers and boyfriend Steven in Twentynine Palms, California. What’s more, the family is set to expand. In April 2016, Melissa announced that she was pregnant.