April 26, 2012
Meet Elijah. He has a lot to teach us all, about hope, about overcoming obstacles, and about how bright we can each make our own futures. I met him yesterday along with a whole group of amazing children at the COX Inspirational Heroes Awards – The event was created to recognize the everyday, unsung heroes in our schools. Even in that group of incredible people Elijah held himself differently. Here is his story as written by his teacher, Dawn Gary from Youngsville Middle School:
I met this young man when he was in the 6th grade. His smile was infectious. I could
only imagine that his life was great. I quickly noticed his happy mood and that made him
more likeable and a pleasure to teach. He energized me, joined the chapter I advise – the
Family, Career & Community Leaders of America – and became active immediately.
For a while I was unaware of Elijah’s history. His limp was all that was slightly
noticeable. Then, on his own, he shared a booklet he had made in elementary school
about himself. It documented the tragic incident of child abuse. Elijah told me that his
biological mother had placed him in a tub of scalding water at three years old. He lost his
toes, was burnt on lower parts of his legs and almost lost his life. I would come to learn
that Elijah had grown up with the attitude that there is a bigger plan for him.
Within the three years I have known Elijah, I have been privileged to learn part of that
plan. Since Elijah was eight years old, he has dreamed of hosting a Christmas party for
children in foster care. Having been in foster care for 2 to 3 years himself, he knew that it
isn’t always easy for foster parents to provide. Elijah not only wanted to have a party, he
wanted to raise money to provide presents for each of the children in attendance – not just
any presents, but the presents that the children had wished for.
Beginning in July of 2011, Elijah began his crusade and spoke before many family
agencies, church groups and family advocate meetings, including judges. He covered
the Southern part of Louisiana promoting the need for child abuse prevention and his
message was hope. Elijah, 14, is brave enough to share the severity of his abuse with his
peers, adults and policy makers and has not allowed the burns that are visible to hinder
his dream of making a difference.
He has tirelessly sought sponsors to help him in this endeavor and received donations
in-kind and monetary. Elijah designed a T-shirt, “No Use for Abuse,” and wrote a “rap”
to further promote his message, sold raffle tickets, and held a Cutz Against Abuse event
where he sought additional donations. Elijah has not only worked on this project while in
school, but also volunteers for children’s camp as a counselor and works with his church.
Elijah surpassed his goal of raising $3,000 by raising almost $5,000 and was able to have
his party for foster care children and their families, feeding them lunch and presenting 72
children with $50 worth of gifts each from their own Christmas wish list.
The coolest thing that day was overhearing a little boy who was tossing his brand new
football say, “I can’t wait to get home to play with this!” I stopped and asked permission
to talk to him and asked what he thought about this event that what Elijah was doing. The
little boy startled me when he said, “I liked that he said there was hope.”
Elijah is a well spoken young man, who smiles easily and has more potential than even he suspects (and he suspects he has a lot). He plans to keep working to end abuse “What happened to me wasn’t right, and I don’t want it to happen to anyone else” This won’t be the last you hear of this amazing young man, I can promise you this. As you go about your day and let the little things get you down, stop and smile and think of Elijah – it will put our pains into perspective, and remind us all that what happens to us doesn’t dictate who we are and what we become.