Sammy Nickalls
July 23, 2015 9:48 am

Elizabeth Diamond — author, motivational speaker, artist, and single mother to four young girls — was as independent as they come. She was selfless and dedicated to helping others as co-founder of the Buffalo Wellness Center, a holistic non-profit dedicated to helping people live their healthiest life.

But when Diamond was diagnosed with stage four brain cancer in August of 2014, she turned to her best friend, Laura Ruffino, for help. Diamond was concerned about her girls and she needed someone to take care of them if things took a turn for the worst. Diamond and Ruffino had been best friends since fifth grade. “No matter where we were, we always had fun,” Ruffino told WKBW.

But now, she had a huge request for her best friend of so many years. “She said if anything ever happens to me I want you to take my girls and I instantly said OK,” Ruffino explained. “As she started to weaken, you can imagine the fears that I had for the girls and being without her.”

Eight months later, in April 2015, her fears came true: Diamond lost her battle with cancer at age 40. And Ruffino fulfilled her promise by adopting her daughters — Lily, Ella, Samona and Tara, ages five to 12 — into her home in Orchard Park, New York with her husband, Rico.

“I would always want someone to do that for me. Her kids and I were so close anyway, because she was my best friend. I wanted to give her peace,” Ruffino told ABC News. “I can’t even imagine what she had to be going through.”

It was a slower transition than it could have been — from time to time, Diamond and the girls would stay with the Ruffinos when Diamond wasn’t feeling well. But now, with the Ruffino’s own two daughters, they have doubled their family from four to eight. “Ten years ago I didn’t think this would be my life,” Rico Ruffino told WKBW. “But if something gets thrown at you just accept the challenge and do the best you can.”

Friends of the Diamond and Ruffino families have set up an online fundraiser to help the Ruffino family support their growing family. They want to transform their garage into two bedrooms for the girls, and raise money for the extra food and other day-to-day living expenses. “The girls are growing so quickly and keeping them dressed, fed, and in their dance classes and such, anyone can imagine how this can create financial stress,” reads the fundraiser. The Ruffino family would also like to purchase another vehicle to be able to transport all of the girls to events together.

“[Diamond] helped others learn how to love their healthiest and happiest and was truly a selfless person,” writes the fundraiser’s organizers. “This is why Diamond chose the Ruffino family to raise her daughters in the event of her death. She knew they would learn more of the same life lessons Diamond treasured.”

So far, they’ve raised over $53,000, which is over half of the $100,000 goal. As well as online contributions, their upstate New York community has been banding together to help the Ruffino-Diamond family by organizing a benefit to be held August 30th.

Rebecca Joy Lesniak, who co-founded Buffalo Wellness Center with Diamond, told BuzzFeed News she had promised Diamond, pictured below, to help spread her message of helping those in need. “I promised her that she wouldn’t be forgotten,” Lesniak said.

But now, it seems as though Diamond’s story is spreading that message all on its own. “What shocks me is she is continuing her work someplace else,” Lesniak told BuzzFeed.

For the Ruffinos, life may be complicated with so many new additions, but it was a no-brainer for such a wonderful friend. “She was non-judgmental. Liz was my person,” Ruffino told ABC News. “That person that you could be anyone in front of, would never judge you. Which I think is so rare in life to find.”

All considering, the family is getting by. “The girls are doing awesome,” Rico Ruffino explained to ABC News. “They’re all going through a difficult situation [but] they’re doing really, really well, considering. They’re great kids. . . They’re my kids now.”

It is so moving to see friendship and family converge in the wake of such heartbreaking loss. Our hearts go out to the Diamond-Ruffino family.

Related:

What I learned from my best friend’s brave battle with cancer

What my mother’s battle with cancer taught me

(Images via the YouCaring fundraising page)

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