Foster Parent Wins UPS Community Service Award
Disabled Kids Prompted Gary Ford To Become Their Advocate
ATLANTA, April 4, 2006 - For the past 17 years, UPS supervisor Gary Ford of Yukon, Okla., has been a foster parent to more than 20 foster children, including children with severe disabilities. He never dreamed that experience would lead him on the road he’s traveled.
Gary became an advocate, one who through perseverance got results. He and his wife Jana challenged state bureaucrats and won, improving the lot of all foster kids and parents in Oklahoma.
For his volunteer service, Ford now has garnered UPS’s highest honor - the 2006 Jim Casey Community Service Award. The award is named for the company’s founder, who asked UPS employees to give back to their communities. More than 400,000 employees around the world have the opportunity to nominate their co-workers for the award.
“My wife and I got into foster care years ago to touch some people’s lives and to try to make a difference,” says Ford. “But I never dreamed that the life most touched would be mine.”
Ford was recognized recently at UPS’s annual management meeting, receiving the award from Chairman and CEO Mike Eskew. Ford, a dispatch supervisor, has been with UPS for 31 years and began his career as a package car driver.
“Through his tireless efforts to help his family and others, Gary has made a real difference in his community,” said Eskew. “His selflessness and dedication personify the spirit of UPS volunteerism.”
Cancer was the inspiration for his volunteerism
Ford’s calling to foster care came after a personal medical scare in the late 1970s when doctors discovered bone cancer in a leg. Miraculously, the bone cancer disappeared and Ford took this as a blessing. He had to find out why he was spared.
“We got into foster parenting,” he recalled. “It felt like a voice inside me telling me that working with the kids was right. They have unconditional love; it’s all they can give. They expect nothing, so whatever you can give them means the world.”
Ford and Jana fostered more than 20 children, with two becoming a permanent part of their lives. Tony, who has cerebral palsy, and James, who suffers from the effects of shaken baby syndrome, now are in their 20s. Both still require constant care due to extensive medical disabilities.
Ford’s activism rooted in foster children’s needs
As Tony and James became part of the Ford family, their foster father sought ways for the boys to learn and socialize with others. Faith was a strong part of the family’s lives, so Ford founded and taught a Sunday school class for disabled children, even picking them up and taking them to church.
The next goal was to get the boys in school, but the temperature on school buses could rise to 100 degrees in the summer, too much for kids with special needs. Ford spoke to the school board and got air conditioning on the buses - not only those in his own school district but in neighboring school districts as well.
“You see rules that need to be changed so you start speaking up to get things changed, just as you would for your own children,” he says.
The greatest challenge came a few years later when a serious illness temporarily separated Tony from the family. The state of Oklahoma said that Ford could no longer care for Tony in his home and sent him to a nursing home. By state law, Ford was not allowed to take Tony home, even though they were prepared to take care of Tony’s medical needs there.
In protest, Ford contacted the State Department for Human Services, requesting a change in the rules to allow foster parents the same rights as biological parents when it comes to administrating medical care and giving medications. Eventually, Tony was allowed to come home and the state legislature passed “Tony’s Bill,” which expanded foster family rights.
Ford’s current goal is to recruit more foster parents.
In addition to Ford’s good works, UPS employees from across the country have compelling stories of volunteerism in their communities. Other finalists for the 2006 Casey Award were:
Greg Winfield, South Holland, Ill.
Naheed Mir, Elk Grove Village, Ill.
Mark Norman, Louisville, Ky.
He Jinchang, Guangzhou, China
Regis Mahoney, Mahwah, N.J.
Patrick Gray, Spokane, Wash.
Dexter Scott, Philadelphia
Jim Smith, Paterson, N.J.
Wayne Smith, Vallejo, Calif.
Sonya Owens, Louisville, Ky.
Johnnie Sloan, Tallevast, Fla.
UPS is the world’s largest package delivery company and a global leader in supply chain services, offering an extensive range of options for synchronizing the movement of goods, information and funds. Headquartered in Atlanta, UPS serves more than 200 companies worldwide. UPS’s stock trades on the New York Stock Exchange (UPS) and the company can be found on the web at UPS.com. Other UPS community giving efforts can be found at community.ups.com.
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Editor’s note: all of the finalists are available for interviews.
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