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Scholarship in Honor of Hooker OK Man Set

Joe Denoyer - January 30, 2024 1:47 pm

Hooker, Oklahoma – A continuing education scholarship in memory of the late Carl Ward of Hooker will be given to a qualifying high school senior thanks to the effort of Dr. Dale Smith, founder of the non-profit American Kids Inc.

Ward was a long time volunteer with the 41 year-old 501c3 program. Smith opened the scholarship fund at Hooker First National Bank.

“I learned so much while observing Carl’s giving spirit. It is important to me to share Carl’s story and honor him in this way. He was a great contributor to the great success of perhaps the most important aspect of the American/Oklahoma Kids program,” said Smith.

On the surface it appears that the program, known as the nation’s only little league of entertainers, was all about stage performance and entertainment, Smith said.

“The program was never about that…(It) was so much more. I can measure the effectiveness of the program with only the comments, notes, cards and letters I get from some of the hundreds of former members and particularly parents. They speak of the friendships and relationships that are still so meaningful and rarely about the performance activity,” he said.

The Ward family, including his son, Shannon Ward of Guymon, and daughter, Wendy Keith of Hooker, joined the Oklahoma Kids family in its sophomore year. Carl soon adopted the contributing spirit of the program.

“We plan to honor a student who most exemplifies that contributing spirit. One who asks for nothing and who has in essence remained behind the curtains, a good citizen contributing to his community unrecognized with the potential for solid achievement,” said Smith.

Ward was an Oklahoma Kids Inc. co-regional director in northwest Oklahoma. He and his wife, Linda, lived in the Panhandle. Through their efforts the program expanded to southwest Kansas and the top of Texas. The non-profit assumed the name American Kids Inc. because of the efforts of the entire family, Smith said.

As a full time volunteer Ward did everything from furniture rearranger to plumber, messenger, trash manager and backstage manager. In between he ran errands, raised funds, served as a chauffeur and much more.

“It is for this reason I encourage others to help grow this scholarship much like the many ones offered in the past, ” Smith said.

Checks may be made payable to American Kids Inc. Carl Ward Scholarship Fund and sent to First National Bank, Attention Marisa Torchia, P.O. Box 840, Hooker, Oklahoma 73945. Any size donation is simply a statement of the love and commitment to the ideals of the American Kids program and to the memory of Carl Ward, Smith said.

Smith said that this reminds him of the group’s theme song “We Can Change the World” and of his late wife Carolyn Snow’s comment, “It’s not just a song anymore.”

 

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