Willing to carry their child

WILMINGTON — To express her gratitude to a church youth group leader who helped her through troubled times, a local woman has offered to be the surrogate mother for him and his wife who cannot have their own children.

“Like many teenagers, I was troubled. I was an alcoholic by the time I was 13, and I experimented with drugs and anything else I could that was bad for me,” said Leanne Burcham of Wilmington.

“He poured out my alcohol when I attempted to drink and drive, he texted me to check on me every chance that he got, he always gave me advice and helped me in my faith,” she said of Jeremy Schulz, who led a youth group at Living Hope in Centerville where she went to church.

Schulz would remind her, she said, “that I had goodness inside of me even when that seemed so crazy and unbelievable to me.”

Fast forward to the present. Burcham has grown up, gotten married and has two children. Schulz, 34, is married to Vanessa, 33, who has a 12-year-old son from a previous marriage and later had to have a hysterectomy. The Schulzes live in Butler County.

Jeremy said when Burcham offered to be a surrogate mother, he initially was in “kind of shock.”

“It’s an amazing thing. I knew her since she was 11. Who would have thought? It’s an answer to prayer for us,” he said.

Jeremy added it’s “neat to see how far she’s [Burcham] come with her struggles” that she experienced as a young teen growing up.

Burcham said she wanted it to be clear for the newspaper article she has “two wonderful and loving parents who were there for me. Just being the age that I was [then], I found it hard to turn to them, and easy to turn to Jeremy instead.”

By volunteering to be surrogate mother, Burcham is cutting about $70,000 from the cost, said Vanessa Schulz.

Vanessa said Jeremy would like a biological child of his own if that’s an option, and Burcham’s offer is giving them that opportunity.

“It’s such a selfless act — I couldn’t stop crying [when Burcham offered to be surrogate mother]. Then, giving up the child that you carry; it’s a big undertaking,” said Vanessa.

The medical and legal costs of the surrogacy are roughly $30,000, according to Vanessa, with adoption costs about the same.

She and Jeremy have set up an online You Caring account to accept donations toward those expenses of surrogacy.

For anyone interested in donating, the address to go to is youcaring.com where there will be a search bar in the upper right corner. In the bar type in the two words, baby schulz. Then click on either the families’ photograph or the headline to open up a full page to donate.

Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768 or on Twitter @GHuffenberger.