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SK family may win vacation of a lifetime

Perhaps no one deserves a vacation more than the parent of a teenager — particularly one who took on that role overnight.

Take the case of Port Orchard resident Sarah Acoba. The 26-year-old and her brand-new husband Jeff took over parenting her brother Zach, who was 13 when their mother died last year.

“They immediately bought a house, because she wanted her brother to have a home,” recalled Heidi Scheibner, who said she grew up with Acoba in Port Orchard since her mother and Acoba’s, the late Lauri Shafer, were good friends. “Sarah doesn’t spend time sulking — she takes a positive spin on everything.”

Recently, Acoba’s story caught the attention of ABC’s Good Morning America, which this month is offering one deserving family a “Paradise” vacation worth $60,000 that includes a Disney cruise, a visit to Disney World and a day to have Disney’s private island in the Caribbean to themselves.

“We’ve been through so much, and stuck together as a family,” said Acoba, explaining that she saw the contest advertised on the television show one morning months ago as she was having coffee and just decided to send in a letter. “I never thought of doing anything like that before. I just thought it would be a huge reward for my family.”

The first step for Acoba was writing a short letter to GMA producers describing her family situation, which changed dramatically in the last two years.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday in 2005, Acoba’s mother went to the doctor with a stomachache, then came home with liver cancer and just a few months to live.

“That Christmas, my husband proposed to me, and we were planning on getting married in Hawaii that summer,” Acoba said, explaining that everything changed when the family learned that not only could her mother not travel, she might not make it to June.

“So we got married in Port Orchard in March last year, so my mother could be there,” she explained. “And then she died on Mother’s Day, two months later.”

To keep the family together and to make sure her brother could stay in school with all his friends rather than move away to live with his father, Acoba said she and her husband decided to transition from sister and brother-in-law to become the teen’s parents. Which wasn’t easy, she admits.

“My biggest challenge has been taking myself away from the sister role, and getting over that he may get mad at me,” she said. “It took me some time, but it’s gotten easier.”

Acoba explained everything to GMA in the letter, then said she “forgot all about it” until she got a call weeks later from the show. Soon she was asked to make a video of herself and her family, then learned she was picked to be one of six finalists. Now, Acoba is one of the remaining three.

The winner will chosen by the public, who can vote for the family they would like to have the vacation on the GMA Website, which features each family’s video and explanations of the contest. Votes will be collected until Nov. 27, and one person can vote numerous times — as long as each vote is done on a different computer.

“I’ve gone to every computer at my work and voted,” said Scheibner.

Acoba said she’s very grateful to all her friends that keep voting for her, including another friend who said she went down to the library and voted on every computer there.

“I vote for myself, too, whenever I get the chance, but I’m trying not to get too obsessive about it,” she said, explaining that if they win the vacation, it will not only give the three of them some quality time together, but also the honeymoon she and Jeff couldn’t take last year.

“It’s time for us to make some good memories together,” Acoba said, adding that she hoped the trip would be something her brother could look back on as “something wonderful we all shared.”

To watch Sarah Acoba’s video and vote in the contest, visit: //abcnews.go.com/GMA

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