Meet the McDonnells

Freshman Shaelyn McDonnell talks about her unique family, and her 13 siblings.


Courtesy of Shaelyn McDonnell

Shaelyn and 12 of her siblings pose for a picture during a vacation a few years ago.

In a family of 16,  things may seem a little crowded, but that’s no problem for freshman Shaelyn McDonnell.

Shaelyn was born September 26, 2006 and was adopted on October 15, 2006, when she was 3 weeks old. Even though she has a huge family, she said everyone has enough room in her house. Eight of her siblings are grown up and have moved out. There are 6 kids living in the house including Shaelyn. There is a 36-year age difference between her oldest sibling and her youngest.

“My oldest brother is 40 and my youngest brother is 4,” Shaelyn said.

All of Shaelyn’s siblings attended Parkway schools, and graduated from South High.

Shaelyn says her family is very diverse, but they are also very similar.

“We’re very diverse and we definitely get some weird looks on the beach because we all look very different, but we don’t care. We connect very well; we have similar personalities. Sean, Brendan, and Bryan love anything technological. Boys have pranks with my dad, girls go along with it. All of my sisters are teachers,” Shaelyn said.

Shaelyn said she loves the closeness and traditions they keep in their family. 

“We’re all very close. We go to Michigan once a year for one week during the summer and our whole family meets together in a big house,” Shaelyn said. 

Shaelyn said her least favorite thing about living in a big family is how spread out everyone is.

“The fact that we only get to see each other once a year because we’re so spread out,” Shaelyn said.

Shaelyn says she is most close to her sister, Molly. Molly is 22 and a senior at Greenville University in Illinois, studying to be a special education teacher.   

“I’m most close to my older sister Molly who is a senior in college. We grew up together and we also spend the most time together,” Shaelyn said.

Shaelyn’s sister, Molly, says the house’s crowdedness doesn’t take away from it’s comfort. 

“The house always feels crowded, however, it always has a ‘homey feeling,’ ” Molly said.

Molly says that their parents had and took in so many kids because of wanting to help others. 

My parents are Christians, they had a pang in their hearts to help children who were less fortunate or needed a safe, protected place to stay. Some of those children got to stay forever and we are all lucky we did,” Molly said. 

Molly says that their parents try their best to be there for every child. 

Managing time between kids is difficult for any parent that has more than one kid, but my parents have never missed a soccer game, celebration, or anything important in my life. They make sure that they are always there when they can,” Molly said.

Molly says that their parents might have trouble with making everyone feel at home. 

 “I feel like they find it strenuous at times, but I know they wouldn’t change that for the world because of how many children and families they have helped living their lives they say they do. The family does everything in their power to make sure that everyone who comes through our doors is treated like they’re blood-related and like family,” Molly said. 

Shaelyn said she loves the uniqueness and closeness of her family the most.

“The look on people’s faces when I tell them about my family. The uniqueness of my family. Not everyone has a big family and I love that uniqueness. How close we are, no secrets, nothing like that. When someone is in trouble everyone helps. I had two minor surgeries last year and one sibling flew out from Connecticut, another one from Michigan. I love how they will drop everything to make sure their siblings are ok,” Shaelyn said.