Gift Of Love: Jason Ward Recognized As An Outstanding Foster Child

Jason Ward enjoys hanging out with his good friend Ross Toler. Jason is a determined 18 year old hoping for a bright future. "I just want to prevail in whatever I do," says Jason. Ross adds, "He works hard for everything." That's because he's always had to. Jason grew up in a chaotic family environment in Texas, never having the role models he needed in his life. "I don't know my real father," he says. His relationship with his mother, at the time, was shaky at best.

Then, when Jason was 13, things took a turn for the worse. He was kicked out of his house. With no where to go he was stuck outside living in the woods for a month. "I built a little hut out of plywood and stuff like that. It was rain proof and everything and I just lived out there. I'd go to my friends house for hygiene and get some food and go back there," explains Jason.

Eventually, he was found in the woods and put in Foster Care, moving frequently. "I went through 5 schools my 8th grade year so it was hard to keep up cause every school is under a different course." Jason goes on to say, "I Made friends pretty easy, but losing them pretty much stunk. No body likes losing their friends. Then, I'd have to move to another school and you know you're different."

Jason turned his focus to athletics, soon the medals started rolling in. He was all state in two sports. Still, he wasn't recognized. "When I got into high school, as far as colleges and scouts seeing me, they couldn't keep up with me because I've been through 4 schools so far in high school," Jason said.

Then, another blow. Just months from graduation at Chester High School, Jason's foster home closed forcing him to move again. But this time, the community rallied around him. Child Protective Services caseworker Shelley Carder says, "Several families came forward and said, 'Let Jason graduate from Chester. He can come live with us. We don't care about the money, we just want to give him a chance to graduate with his friends.' The department made the decision to allow him to do that and I think it was the right one." Jason adds, "They had the determination to get me back in. I guess they felt that I deserve better." Jason now lives with his good friend Ross, becoming almost like brothers. "Whatever one of us does the other one is pretty much there," Ross said.

Now, just weeks from graduation, Jason is called back to the courtroom. This time, to finally get the recognition he deserves. Judge Os Chrisman announces to a packed courtroom, "We're recognizing Jason as an outstanding teen of Cherokee County. Jason, in the face of adversity and change, chose to answer with excellence." In a rare move, judge Chrisman awards Jason with a certificate of commendation. "It's certainly a reward to everyone in the system. It only takes a few positives to make it all worth while. This is one of those." Judge Chrisman goes on to say, "We hope this will be a commendation and an encouragement to go further and complete your education goals and your goals in life. We congratulate you."

As these two friends leave the courthouse, Jason realizes for the first time in his life, that everything he's been through will be the foundation driving him to that bright future he's always hoped for. "Now I'm just like any other child I guess."

Jason wants to play basketball in college. He's hoping to attend a Junior College for two years, followed by a four year University.

If you'd like to know more about adoption or fostering a child, call our Gift of Love hotline. The toll free number is 1-888-kids-275.

Gillian Sheridan, reporting.