"Move that bus!" It was three words that should have cemented an exciting moment for the Friday family, but what followed their Extreme Makeover: Home Edition debut was an explosive scandal nobody could've ever seen coming...
“I love children, that’s where my heart is,” explained an emotional Devonda. Back in the day, the North Carolina native worked for the city of Lincolnton, a loyal police officer who helped keep bad guys off of the streets.
But there was another reason she loved what she did, "For the children who don't have advocates to speak for them." Little did she know, Devonda's charitable ways would soon catch her in the center of explosive scandals…
Her Special Match
As fate would have it, somewhere along the way, the devoted child advocate met her perfect match: James Friday, a charming, Southern gentleman with the same shared values as the empathetic officer. In fact, it was practically meant to be that the two had found their way to one another.
Perhaps that's why it was only a matter of time before the two tied the knot in a dreamy summer wedding come August of 1998. From that day forward, they made a vow to be there for each other, to have and to hold, for better, or for worse. If only they knew what that would soon call for…
The House of Hope
"My wife and I started the House of Hope to support the department of social services and the foster care department," James revealed. You see, before the couple's lives were turned upside down, Devonda and James carried on with their charitable ways, this time in the form of their very own nonprofit organization.
'House of Hope:' a neighborhood resource center, dedicated to "providing... toiletry items and personal care items for foster children, to help fuel their needs," as James put it. Unfortunately for the Fridays, their philanthropic ways would soon lead them down a different path, after one fateful day changed Devonda's life forever…
The Trauma That Changed it All
It all started in (about) 2004, when Devonda’s time in uniform had her uncover her most tragic case to date: “A child" neglected "so badly that the child’s face had been” extremely damaged, a devastating sight to be seen. How did the horrified officer react?
"I figured if I couldn't do anything [about it] at my job, that we could do something as husband and wife," Devonda explained. And that's exactly what they did; In only a matter of time, the Friday family set off on their latest chapter, one that would change their life forever…
Opening Their Doors
So, what was their next move? How could Devonda and James help be a part of the change, so that no child would ever have to experience the sheer horror Devonda had witnessed that fateful day? And that was when it hit them: “Devonda and I thought maybe we could just step it up and become foster parents ourselves,” James revealed.
From that day forward, the loving couple welcomed about 30 children in and out of their home, eager to spread their love with those who desperately needed some: "I have been in other foster families, but no one was like the Fridays," Kim Evan, a former foster child of theirs, revealed. But there was one child who would soon change everything...
"When he came, he brought along a video, and we had no idea," Devonda reflected of the moment their latest foster child made a plea that left them speechless: "I always wanted a house I could just call home, and a mom and dad, that's all I wanted," 13-year-old, Chris, explained. But that wasn't all the lonely child pleaded...
“I always knew that I wanted to stay with my brothers and sisters because I just love them,” the loyal brother revealed about his 4 younger siblings. Since the moment they first came into this world, the 5 abandoned children were practically attached at the hip, and that wasn't going to change...
Coming From Nothing
"These children are so precious, the little family… came to Crossnore with only the clothes on their back," Phyllis, the executive director of the Crossnore School, a North Carolina-based children's home, revealed of the children's memorable time there.
“They’ve sort of been pushed through a number of orphanages, and then foster homes… and all 5 brothers and sisters never really had a space of their own,” she continued. Sure enough, those days were about to come to an end - everything was about to change.
The New Friday Family
And so, on a fateful day in April 2011, the loving Friday parents made their biggest decision yet, as they went from a family of 3 to a family of 7: Chris, 13, Kamaya, 12, Carly 8, and 5-year-old twins, London and Luke, had officially found a forever home.
"We made a vow to keep the family together… and we made it happen," James and Devonda explained, as they welcomed the 5 biological siblings through their door. "I just felt like I was home," Chris revealed, as he "asked if he could call [Devonda & James ] mom and dad." Their response? Of course, "yes."
“It’s Nonstop Here”
“Showers, baths, cooking, washing, I mean, it’s nonstop here,” a struggling Devonda revealed. You see, while the Fridays now had 7X the love, they also had 7X the responsibility: “It was a shock, it meant everything times 7 now,” the exhausted mother continued.
As she put it, “I have to go buy groceries that I thought would last for a week, and would be done in a day.” Unfortunately, though, adjusting to her new reality would be far harder than she could’ve ever imagined - not only for her, but for her entire new clan.
Expenses Through the Roof
"About 6 months ago, I was an engineer for a local engineering company," James revealed. What went wrong? "The economy hit and really affected us financially." Not only were James and Devonda struggling to keep count of their groceries, but they suddenly couldn't even afford them.
Tensions were high in the Friday household, only it continued to get worse. "My wife took a part-time job just so we could make ends meet," James continued of their then-struggles. As Devonda put it, she and James were able "to give our children all the love that they need, but... we couldn't give them the house that they needed."
Adjusting to a Home of 9
What were the struggling parents to do? Their growing family’s quaint, little home might have been beaming with love (and lots of energy), but it was also met with unavoidable hardship: Their home, a small-family ranch, was now occupied by 5 new faces, and things were far more difficult than anticipated.
And, well, as the saying goes, desperate times call for desperate measures, which is what compelled the helpless parents to "close in our [unheated] carport to accommodate the fab five," as James revealed. "The rooms were just cramped, every closet maxed out, one bathroom in the hallway, and we had other issues..."
The Crumbling Foundation
“We have a crack that goes throughout the floor of our house,” the worried father revealed. What exactly did this mean? The Friday family had a lot more to worry about than overly cramped bedrooms and overflowing closets. In fact, their foundation was literally crumbling.
In other words, it was pretty much only a matter of time before the Friday's run-down home would come crashing down: "The entire addition is settling, and water is coming through the house, which is causing our walls to actually come apart," a worried Devonda revealed.
A Plea For Help
“When we followed Chris… the fab five into our home, we promised them to provide for them,” Devonda explained about their unavoidable struggles, which only seemed to be growing by the day. What were they going to possibly do? “We’re at the point where all our recourses are exhausted.”
In fact, it was only a matter of time before both she and her husband faced the harsh realization: They needed help, and they needed it fast. So, what exactly did the Friday family decide to do? Or better yet, whom did they turn to for help?
Extreme Makeover, Help Us
“We’re going to continue to love them and provide for them, but Extreme Makeover, we desperately need your help,” James pleaded with the camera, as he and his wife turned to reality-tv series, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, for a second (much-needed) hand.
Sure, it was a gamble, but for James and Devonda? It also seemed like their only way out of this mess: Dedicated to providing new homes - and second chances - to families in need, Extreme Makeover would certainly help ease their stresses, wouldn't it? "We need you to come and help us," Devonda pleaded.
A Dream in the Making
Well, as they'd soon find out, the growing Friday family and their charitable ways had caught the eyes of many - leaving just about anyone who'd ever crossed paths with them in complete and utter awe; Perhaps that's what led someone in their quaint, little, town to nominate the Fridays for the hit-series.
"This is a dream come true," an emotional Devonda revealed. After endless sleepless nights, worrying about what the future held for both she and her precious little ones, Devonda could finally breathe: her family of 9 had been selected to be featured on the show. Little did she know the chaos that would soon hijack her new home…
The Ultimate Christmas Gift
So, what did the Friday’s time on our screens call for? For starters, the family of 9 were whisked away on a dreamy getaway to Jamaica, while host, Ty Pennington, and a team of about 3,000 volunteers joined forces to build them the ultimate dream home - right in time for Christmas.
“This will be a life-changing event for the Fridays, and we can’t think of a more deserving family to receive this gift from the greater Charlotte community,” Bellamy Homes Co-Owner, Wade Miller gushed. Sure enough, 7 days, 8-bedrooms, and 3,900-square-feet later, three famous words kicked off the televised unveiling of the family’s new home...
"Move that Bus!"
"Move that bus!" It was everything they could've ever wanted, and then some. "I was like, 'Wow, this is ours…' I was shocked that this was finally ours, something we could call our own," Kamaya Friday, told PEOPLE of the moment she laid eyes on her new home.
But that wasn’t all. The Friday family were also gifted a new shop, a place to operate their inspiring nonprofit. With thousands of dollars worth of donated items, and seemingly endless Sears gift cards in hand, the Friday family were living out a dream - it almost seemed too good to be true...
Behind Closed Doors
But perhaps that's all it was, a fairytale, painted perfectly by James and Devonda themselves - at least that's what their children would soon allege: "What they did to us was just wrong," Chris told WSOC-TV about the family's secret scheme, as he put it.
You see, 5 years later, come 2016, after the Friday family had long since made their debut on our screens, the eldest of their adopted children dropped a major bombshell to Channel 9 news. Chris wasn't holding back. What did the now 20-year-old have to say?
"Why Did I Have to Leave?"
"I felt like they were my mom and dad. I loved them like they were my real parents. I did," he began to Channel 9's Paul Boyd. Sadly, everything would soon change, the minute the cameras stopped rolling - at least that's how he saw it. What did he say?
According to Chris, mere months after the show aired, he was kicked to the curb, sent to a group home for an alleged 'bad attitude.' "Why did I have to leave? I just didn't understand it. And it made me feel not wanted, you know?" Unfortunately, though, Chris wasn't the only one kicked to the curb…
“It Was All About the Money”
Within a year after their television debut, all 5 adopted children had vanished from the new 8-bedroom mansion. "My brother and sisters were 5 years old. How can they get into that much trouble where [Devonda & James] had to kick them out?"
What was the reasoning behind such controversial deeds? For Chris, the answer was simple: "I know it was all about the money. From the first day, it was all about the money." "That's all she's about, money. It's money with her," now 19-year-old, Kamaya agreed.
Where Did the Money Go?
But while the hurt and betrayed siblings had already aired a whole lot of dirty laundry, their shocking allegations were only just beginning. In fact, what they said next questioned the entire integrity of everything their parents so proudly stood for.
As Kamaya put it, Devonda and James' nonprofit donations were being used for Devonda's personal use. But that's not all: "She'd get a check for all five of us from DSS [the Department of Social Services], and we'd say, 'Can't you get us clothes?' We were in the same clothes all the time."
Two Sides to Every Story
But while Chris and his sister might have had no problem speaking their truths, so did their former father, who wasted no time setting the record straight - or at least according to his side of things: “Listen, no one kicked Chris or Kamaya out of the home,” James Friday explained about their sudden departure.
How did he put it? "They asked us to leave… we had some issues in the home before and after the show." As for the rest of his 'missing' children? "That's a DSS and social service matter," James said, confirming that they, too, were no longer living at their Lincolnton mansion.
The Secret Court Battle
What would you do, if you were in James and Devonda's shoes? According to Chris, what his former parents did next was nothing he could've ever imagined: "They went to court trying to get us all back," he claimed, about their secret 2015 family court hearing.
"I think it was about the money, too." Would the judge find favor in the parents' eyes, or come to pity the seemingly abandoned children standing before him? "The judge got upset and was like, 'You leave these kids life for a whole year, then try to come back… and say you want them back? It doesn't work like that,'" Kamaya revealed.
Of course, everybody handles trauma differently. But for 19-year-old Kamaya, the sad truth was that the ghosts of her past were going to be haunting her for a while: “I feel like I push people away, I don’t trust people,” Kamaya revealed to People in 2016.
“If a guy is interested in me, I feel like, ‘I’m not wanted, nobody wants me.’ It’s hard to create relationships with people.” Sure enough, after bouncing around from foster home to foster home, only to be betrayed by the place she soon called home - as she alleged - Kamala’s healing process was far from over.
Flash Forward to Today
Fast forward 4 years, and well, where exactly do the 5 children stand today? The truth is that nobody really knows. The eldest siblings last spoke out about their family’s bitter ending back in 2016, and the online world has been scrambling to fit the missing pieces together ever since. Which brings us to our next question…
What do you think? We’ve seen the Fridays go from 7X the love, to, well, 7X the sorrow. But of course, as you already know, there are 2 sides to every story, so we’ve got to ask: whose side are you on? Were Devonda and James trying to do right, or were Chris and Kamaya speaking the truth, as bitter as it may have been? We’ll let you decide...