4 Things to Know About the Willis Clan
They have been compared to the Von Trapps and even deemed a contemporary Partridge family.
But after news broke that the Willis Clan‘s patriarch Toby Willis was arrested on child rape charges, the Christian musical family’s squeaky clean image might be over. Here is a look back at what we know about the former TLC stars.
1. They Love J Names, Just Like the Duggars
Parents Toby and Brenda Willis have 12 children, 8 girls and 4 boys, and all of them have names that start with the letter “J,” just like the Duggars, another TLC reality family that was embroiled in a scandal.
The children range from ages 5 to 24. They tout themselves as “accomplished singers, songwriters, dancer and athletes.” In an interview with PEOPLE last June, daughter Jenny said, “Everyone has their own personality.”
2. They’re No Strangers to Reality TV
Before getting their own show on TLC (which was canceled earlier this year before Toby’s arrest, the network confirmed to PEOPLE), the Willis Clan first hit it big on the ninth season of America’s Got Talent in 2014. They reached the quarterfinals of the show, ultimately losing out to season nine winner Mat Franco.
The Willis Clan got their own TLC reality show, The Willis Family, last year, and the first episode aired on May 15, 2015. The show finished airing its second season in April, after which it was quietly canceled. They previously had a show called The Willis Clan on GAC.
3. They Are Conservative Christians
The Christian family does not believe in premarital sex and none of them drink alcohol. However, in June 2015, the family told PEOPLE about the “open mind” parenting Toby and Brenda show their children.
“We didn’t have a lot of restrictions,” oldest daughter Jessica said. “It wasn’t like ‘Don’t do this!’ It was more like, ‘Try this or that.’ We’re always encouraged to do more things, but our parents are right there to catch us if it is a bridge too far.”
4. This Is Not Their First Time Dealing with Tragedy
In 1994, Toby lost six of his siblings in a fiery crash in Illinois, according to the Chicago Tribune. His parents, Scott and Janet Willis, were on their way to Wisconsin when their minivan erupted in flames after striking a piece of debris that fell from a truck. Toby and his two other siblings were not in the car at the time of the accident.